Ocon: Renault swap justified by Ricciardo’s ‘better pace’

Esteban Ocon says a lack of grip suffered during his second stint at Sochi led to Renault’s decision to order the Frenchman to swap positions with teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Ocon enjoyed a strong start to his Russian Grand Prix, moving up from P7 on the grid to fourth on the opening lap, just behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

But after taking on a set of hard tyres on lap 18, the Renault charger found himself struggling for grip and unable to get the measure of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

That compelled the Renault pitwall to swap its drivers positions to allow Ricciardo a chance to move forward, which the Aussie eventually did, concluding his race P5, two spots ahead of Ocon.

“It was a very good start to the race,” explained Ocon. “I mean the start I got was very nice, I got up to fourth just behind Max .

“The first stint was strong, I was almost having the pace of Max ahead, which was very promising but when we pitted to the hards, I don’t know.

“We lost grip, we lost balance in the car and everything seemed to be a bit more difficult. Couldn’t pass Seb, let past Daniel – he had better pace – and then [the second stint] was not as strong as the first stint.

“Potentially a bit more points on the table for us, something we need to review, but overall [the race was] very good for the team and we are catching up in the constructors’ championship.”

    Read also: F1i’s Driver Ratings for the 2020 Russian GP

Indeed, McLaren, Racing Point and Renault are now grouped together in the standings behind Mercedes and Red Bull with respectively, 106, 104 and 99 points.

Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul was delighted with his team’s fruitful harvest of points in Russia.

“Daniel was really impressive in building the required gap to Leclerc to absorb the five-second penalty from going deep into Turn 2 when we swapped the cars to mitigate the time lost behind Vettel,” commented the Frenchman.

“Esteban, on his side, struggled a bit more with grip at times during the race, but was remarkable in defending from Kvyat for more than 20 laps and contributed to the overall team achievement.”

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