At last weekend’s French GP, drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg crossed the line in seventh and ninth positions.
Ricciardo, though, later received a time penalty that demoted him to 11th in the final classification but also meant Hülkenberg was elevated up to eighth.
But it was in the previous race, at Montreal, Canada which first really showed that an upgrade to the engine in the team’s R.S.19s had really delivered in terms of increase power and reliability.
Ricciardo qualified a magnificent fourth and for a while was able hold off the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas before going on to finish in sixth place. Hülkenberg was also well into the top ten, qualifying seventh and finishing in the same position right behind the Ricciardo.
It was the team’s first double points finish of the season and, with more points for Hülkenberg’s eighth place in the French GP, it goes into this weekend’s Austrian GP just eight points behind the Renault-powered McLaren squad in a tight battle for fourth in the Constructors’ table.
Had Ricciardo’s seventh place in France stood (he was penalised for going off track in a pass on Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo), the gap between the two teams would be down to three points instead of the current eight.
Ricciardo and Hülkenberg will go into the Austrian GP tied on points, ninth in the drivers’ standings.
“It’s clearly disappointing to drop outside the points with a post-race penalty, especially at the team’s home race,” reflected Ricciardo.
“The last lap was a lot of fun, we had a fight and I enjoyed it. I’d rather give it a go than not try at all, and I’m sure the French fans and the people at home liked watching.”
He added: “There are still a lot of positives to take and we’ll be looking for an immediate response in Austria.”
Hulkenberg, too, has been buoyed by the team’s recent turn in form – it has managed to out-run one of the Red Bulls at least in Canada and France – but believes better qualifying is required to improve its chances in race trim.
“We’ve demonstrated that our race pace is there, but we have something to find on one-lap pace,” he commented and his sentiments were echoed by Team Principal Cyril Arbiteboul.
He said: “With all the challenges to overtake cars on-track it is another demonstration that qualifying is the defining part of the weekend and our focus point for improvement.”
While Paul Ricard marked a home grand prix for the French element (engine) of Renault’s F1 team, so, too, will Silverstone for its UK operations (chassis) when it hosts the British GP on 12-14 July.