Drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg finished in sixth and tenth positions for a combined score of nine points – just one less than Renault customer team McLaren which currently fourth in the table.
It meant the gap between them as we went to press was 34 points heading into the season’s last four GPs in Mexico, USA, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
The Mexican GP was about to take place as we went to press (Sun 27 Oct) and the race’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit was expected to suit the aerodynamics of Renault’s R.S.19.
Like Monza, Italy where both cars shone in September’s Italian GP, it boasts a huge start-finish straight at one kilometre in length.
The Circuit of the Americas which then follows on 3 November has two giant straights and Renault will want to capitalise there as well in an effort to close back up to McLaren prior to the final two races at Interlagos (17 Nov) and Yas Marina (1 Dec).
Renault’s engineers and race strategists will have also taken heart from the team’s results in the Japanese GP at Suzuka after a difficult qualifying.
After a hydraulic leak on his car, Hülkenberg had qualified back in P15 and Ricciardo, not comfortable with his R.S.19’s balance in blustery conditions, an even lower P16. However some great moves, smart thinking and co-operation enabled both drivers to move up the leader board during the race…
Hülkenberg was up to P10 by the end of the opening lap and Ricciardo similarly took just a handful of laps to make up five positions.
In the closing laps, Hülkenberg made way for Ricciardo – quicker at this stage of the race – and the Australian made up several more positions to cross the line in P7.
There was to be a late bonus as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ahead was penalised, this promoting Ricciardo to P6 in the final result with Hülkenberg P10.
Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul commented: “Both drivers had clean starts for the first time in a while and after the opening laps it was non-stop action, with an amazing number of stylish overtaking manoeuvres from Daniel and Nico.
“Nico also accepted to play the team game, which played out nicely for the team, so big thanks to him.
“We’re leaving Suzuka with both cars in the points, a nice reward for the various issues we’ve had over the last races despite a car that had the capacity to score at every race.”
Ricciardo, seventh in the drivers’ table, said: “The team deserved this result today. We’ve been on a bit of a frustrating run recently without scoring, so to take seventh today is excellent…
“Starting on the medium tyre worked to our advantage and we came through the pack with some enjoyable battles. It was nice to execute a good strategy, we pulled through and in the end it was a deserved and quite comfortable seventh place.”