Daniel Ricciardo admits he was surprised by the race pace demonstrated by Renault’s Formula 1 midfield rival Racing Point in the Chinese Grand Prix.
Following back-to-back retirements in Australia and Bahrain, Ricciardo finally got off the mark with his first points finish since joining Renault as he came out on top of the midfield fight in Shanghai in seventh place.
The Australian maintained the position throughout, but found himself coming under pressure from the Racing Point of Sergio Perez.
“I was a bit surprised by Perez’s pace in the race,” Ricciardo said.
“Ideally, we want to stretch the gap to the others but he had a really strong one. There are still some areas we can improve but generally speaking if we can put the weekend together, we should be at the front of the [midfield] group.
“It was not easy, Perez was really quick and he pushed me in the whole race. I was trying to manage the gap for the moment, but then he was coming so I just had to go.
“Towards the end it was getting a bit tricky but he was also suffering, so it didn’t make it too tense over the last few laps.”
Perez made the most of an excellent start to gain four places on the opening lap to claim his team’s best result of the opening three rounds with eighth in China, ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and the recovering Toro Rosso of Alexander Albon.
“We are very pleased with that [result],” Perez explained.
“It’s what we have to do while the car is not at the level we expected to be. We just have to get out there, try to out-perform them, I think it’s what we did.
“Today we’ve done a pretty good job, very sensible, fantastic lap one and good management of the tyres. I think we just [had] a perfect race.”
Ricciardo, who admitted to struggling to get to grips with Renault’s 2019 challenger, felt a change of approach and learnings taken from the two-day post-Bahrain Grand Prix test ultimately helped him grab his breakthrough result.
“It always helps when P1 goes smooth and sometimes I don’t know if that is luck or good preparation pre-race,” he said.
“But the set up was there and we didn’t really have to change too much through the weekend. I felt like I could just build on myself as opposed or learning the car by changing this and that. Some of those things we learned from the test in Bahrain – hanging back for that was positive.
“It feels good – probably just for my guys in the garage as well. We hadn’t seen a chequered flag yet. So for them [there were] a couple high fives going around. It is good that they can fly home with a smile on their face.”