Daniel Ricciardo still believes that the Renault team will bounce back from a lacklustre season to be in contention for podiums in 2020.
“I think we can get this going next year for where we can still believe in 2020,” he said, insisting that Renault is still on course “to reach some podiums next year.”
“Yeah it’s a stretch, but I do believe that if we do what we believe we can, it’s still there,” he told the official Formula1.com website.
“This season hasn’t taken any wind out of our sails, it’s just a bit more fuel for the fire,” he added. “It has not been disheartening.”
Ricciardo left Red Bull 12 months ago, but while his former team mate Max Verstappen went in to clinch three Grand Prix victories this season, he himself finished no higher than fourth place which was in the Italian GP.
“The high was kind of in line [with expectations], a top-five, whatever I knew was there,” he acknowledged. “These moments, they’re encouraging, they’re inspiring. It’s cool.
“I didn’t expect some bigger results than the fourth place that we got in Monza […] but our worst results were worse than I hoped,” he said. “The lows at times we were like scratching our heads, like: ‘We shouldn’t be this far down’.
“To be running P14 or something, we thought we were done with this,” he sighed. “That was where there was a bit more head-scratching, and the reality [that] we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
“I expected it. I didn’t expect it to be easy. So yes, I expected some hurdles, some challenges. I don’t know what I expected, but I hoped for better results than we’ve had, more consistently.”
It left the Aussie in ninth place in the drivers championship on 54 points for the season, which is not where he wanted to be after his first year at Enstone. Being beaten to the ‘best of the midfield’ status in the constructors championship by McLaren was a bitter pill for the team to swallow.
“We were kidding ourselves,” Ricciardo told Motorsport.com, accepting that the team simply wasn’t good yet enough to top or break away from the midfield crush. “This is where we belong.”
And Ricciardo pointed out that not having a car capable of running at the front – as he did at Red Bull – presented its own different set of unique challenges to the driver.
“Especially with the midfield, the car is obviously not as good as the front guys,” he explained. “If you do have a slide, you lose more time and overheat the tyres and you seem to pay a bigger price.
“”It’s so easy to overdrive and to try to get that extra tenth, and you end up losing a tenth.
“I think the biggest thing is understanding how to be perfect,” he continued. “Learning when to be sensible and when to try and get a bit more out of it. It has taught me probably just a bit of discipline over anything else.
“The long and short is, you’re always trying to drive as hard and fast as can,” he added. “But picking your moment is probably the best way to put it, a bit of discipline and experience.”
Now that he’s been through the transition, put in the time and done the homework at Renault, he’s hoping that the improvement will quickly become evident in 2020.
“We’re not going to be a top-five car maybe every race,” he admitted. “We haven’t reached the real rewards yet.”