Alan Permane has defended the Renault Sport Formula One Team’s decision not to send either Carlos Sainz Jr. or Nico Hülkenberg on track during the second segment of Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix, feeling starting eleventh and twelfth and with a free choice of tyre was the best option for their chances of scoring points on Sunday.
The two drivers only just escaped Q1 on Saturday afternoon, ending fourteenth and fifteenth respectively, and Permane, Renault’s Sporting Director, said that the pace of the R.S.18 was just not strong enough to come out on top of the extremely close midfield battle at the Sochi Autodrom so the decision was made to keep both Sainz and Hülkenberg in the pit lane throughout Q2.
The decision was made easier for them as neither Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver, nor Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda’s Pierre Gasly, went out in the session either due to their impending grid penalties, meaning Renault were guaranteed to lock out row six for Sunday’s race.
“We’ve seen an exceptionally close midfield here and we weren’t able to be at the front of this battle on qualifying pace,” said Permane. “This meant we looked ahead to the race and the tyre strategy options available.
“By not running in Q2 we will end up on the grid as the first cars with an open starting tyre choice and we’re expecting this will translate to a stronger race performance. Our approach will be to gain places when those ahead of us have to pit early because of the short performance life of the Hypersoft tyres.
“This will benefit us early in the race however we still expect a very tight battle. We’ll be looking to maximise every opportunity with points the target.”