Portugal GP 2020 - GP preview - Renault F1
It was 868 days between Daniel Ricciardo’s last Formula 1 podium – Monaco 2018 - and his trip to the rostrum at the Eifel Grand Prix last Sunday. The Australian is delighted to have ticked this off the list as he heads to Portugal motivated and confident.
What do you know about the Algarve International Circuit?
I actually have some good memories from racing in Portimão. The first time I raced there was in 2009 in British Formula 3, and I wrapped up the title there that year. It was the penultimate round; I was on the podium in the first race then I finished fifth in the second race, but it was good enough to take the title. Earlier that year, I had my first taste of a Formula Renault 3.5 car there too. It’s a circuit I really enjoyed back then, so I’m sure it’ll be even better in a modern Formula 1 car!
There’s some good elevation and fast, flowing corners to get into. It’s a very exciting track. The weather should be much warmer than in Nürburgring, so I’ll be back to my usual smiling self. We should have a normal Friday programme to run through and we’ll be aiming to get into it from the off and aim for some solid points.
Has the podium feeling sunk in?
It was a great feeling last Sunday standing on the podium. It felt like it was my first time up there all over again. It felt special as it was definitely coming. We’ve had a couple of fourth places this year, so close to third, and it felt like it would happen. Persistence pays off and I’m really happy for the team and the hard work everyone has been putting in for a few years now. We’re not finished yet, though. I think there’s another one in us before the year is out. We won’t stop working and we won’t just rest on this. We have a target in sight. In the meantime, we also need to work on Cyril’s tattoo!
While it was an early end for Esteban Ocon in Germany, the Frenchman heads to Portugal with the necessary motivation and confidence as he eyes a return to the points for the first Formula 1 race at the Algarve International Circuit.
Have you raced in Portugal?
The first time I raced in Portugal was in 2011, at the karting track of Portimão, which is close to the circuit. I was fighting for the title in the world series of karting and, at this race, I was actually on pole position, so that was a good memory! I remember seeing Formula 1 cars testing there and making some noise on the other side of the kart track! I was dreaming that one day I’d have the chance to drive there, and now it’s on the calendar this year. I’m looking forward to going to Portugal.
What do you know about the Algarve International Circuit?
From the outside it looks like a rollercoaster lap. I’ve driven it on my home simulator and it’s quite a challenge. It’s very hilly, some elevation changes and some cool corners, so I think it’ll be something special in a Formula 1 car. There are quite a lot of medium-speed corners and that will be demanding for the car. It’s different to the Nürburgring in terms of the weather as well. It’s going to be an interesting one and we have to adapt to the new conditions and the track quicker than the others. That’s the aim.
How do you reflect on the past run of races?
It’s really positive that the car is performing well in many races on different types of tracks. We know we can’t afford to stop the hard work now as there’s a long way to go in the season as the championship is extremely tight. I was happy with how the Eifel Grand Prix was going. It was a shame not to finish the race, as there were definitely points on the table. I’m determined for a good weekend in Portugal and we aim to finish with solid points at the end of the weekend.
Chief Race Engineer Ciaron Pilbeam
The team returned to the Formula 1 podium for the first time in over 10 years last time out. But, there’s no time to reflect too much on that, as focus turns to the Portuguese Grand Prix and taking home as many points as possible, as Chief Race Engineer Ciaron Pilbeam explains.
How will the team prepare for a new circuit?
We have been to a couple of effectively new circuits this year - Mugello and Nürburgring - and Portimão has never held a Formula 1 race, although some teams have done some testing there in the past. Pre-event preparation doesn’t change very much, but we do need to be prepared to react to the specific features of the circuit that are not captured so well in simulation, particularly grip and detailed ride inputs of the track surface.
What do we know about Portimão?
Downforce level will be in the mid to high range. The circuit has several slower corners, but also some medium speed, and the corner leading on to the Start-Finish straight will be taken at full throttle, effectively making a longer straight. However, the first corner is quite fast, at around 200km/h, so it will not be a great overtaking opportunity. The weather is warmer than we saw in Germany, with ambient temperatures around 20°C, but it looks like there could be some thundery showers around in the week leading up to the event. The circuit is on the Atlantic coast, and it can be very windy, which could also affect the cars, so we could see another race weekend where the weather plays its part.
How does the team reflect on the Eifel Grand Prix?
It was great to get our first podium at the Eifel Grand Prix. The chassis and engine are working well, and we have felt for a while that getting on the podium was possible. It’s good to actually achieve it, though, as it gives the whole team a boost at a critical time as we start to get closer to the end of the season. It was disappointing that Esteban’s car didn’t make it to the finish, as he was in a good position in the race too and looked likely to score well. Our momentum had been building over the last few races, and we now need to continue that progress and aim to consistently achieve good results in the Constructors’ Championship.
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