In modern F1, there’s no greater battle than the mid-field fight and this year, it’s been Renault and McLaren jockeying for fourth in the constructors’ championship, as their cars, similar in pace, compliment each other in their strengths.
McLaren seemed the easy favorite in the first half of the 2019 F1 season, with Renault struggling in the earlier stages of the year, but they are coming back at the papaya cars in terms of race-pace, even though the British team remains the one to beat on Saturday.
The French manufacturer have faltered a bit in their qualifying pace but have picked up well in the races as Ricciardo here explains the reasons behind it. The Australian reckons that McLaren has been able to extract more from the tyre window to bank in quick laps.
“I would say on one lap, splitting it between qualifying and race, I do feel, and if I watch the onboards, I do feel like if I look at McLaren they seem to be able to get the lap time out of the car a bit easier,” started Ricciardo, when asked about pace difference.
“Let’s say that window we talk of, seems slightly wider for them, and I think that’s why in quali we’re not really always able to extract maybe the most out of it, because it’s, I guess in short probably easier for us to make a mistake, or to get the set-up spot on.
“But then in the race, once the pace comes off and you’re not on the limit of the tyre really the whole race, I think that’s where we’re our window expands naturally for the pace and I think that’s why we’re able to maybe come back a little bit towards them.”
At the same time, rival Lando Norris concurred with Ricciardo. Although he still believes that Renault are the stronger team on race day.
Norris also feels that their qualifying advantage won’t be of any use Brazil, meaning the fight for fourth will likely head into Abu Dhabi, as Renault will likely be nipping at their heels – if not be ahead of them in the fight. “As a quali spec car, I think we are stronger,” he said.
“The car works a bit better with the new tyres and we can extract more from the car, but when it gets to the race it’s the opposite. We were slower than Renault. We lose quite a big chunk of time from the advantage we have in quali, which is four-tenths or so.
“To being two to three tenths slower than them. It’s not so fun. We’re going to the next few tracks and it’s going to suit different cars. Toro Rosso looked very strong in USA and they were in qualifying until that Q3 run, and their race pace is normally very strong.
“We’re never expecting to always be P7, P8 and best of the rest, but we’re always able to work together as a team and extract more. We may not get into Q3 in Brazil even and be in the more midfield of the midfield.”
Heading into a race in which the leaders of the midfield fight are on the defense, it should be a close fight at the final round in Abu Dhabi, when the stakes are at their highest.
[Note: This article was also written by me on Formula Rapida and edited by Darshan Chokhani]