Cyril Abiteboul reckoned the grid penalties that were handed to Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg for the Belgian Grand Prix left them vulnerable to the first corner antics that left both drivers compromised on Sunday.
Hülkenberg was forced to run wide and lost ground as a result of taking avoiding action at La Source but team-mate Ricciardo collided with Racing Point F1 Team racer Lance Stroll, forcing him into a first lap pit stop with what appeared to be a slow puncture, but left him with a race of tyre preservation to get through to the chequered flag without another stop.
“We had a good pace in qualifying, but the planned penalties exposed us to incidents that frequently occur here in the midfield at the first corner,” said Renault Team Principal Abiteboul. “And unfortunately that was the case today.
“Nico was able to avoid the debris off the start by going very wide but to the expense of several positions, while Daniel was hit from behind and fell back to the rear of the field with a suspected slow puncture. From there it was a race to come back.”
Abiteboul reckoned the damage caused to Ricciardo’s car at the start was costing him around half a second a lap, so it was impressive for the Australian to run inside the points for as long as he did before he fell to fourteenth at the chequered flag.
“We asked Daniel to look after his tyres after the change and he did an extremely good job considering the circumstances and the very significant damage to his car, at least half a second per lap,” said the Frenchman.
Hülkenberg was forced into a second pit stop as he struggled with his medium Pirelli tyres, but the German was able to make up ground across the closing laps, and when both Lando Norris and Antonio Giovinazzi retired, he was able to claim eighth place and four World Championship points.
“For Nico, he was able to make up some positions, but the mediums did not last so well in the traffic and he had to stop again for softs,” added Abiteboul.
With the passing of Renault Sport Academy star Anthoine Hubert on Saturday, Abiteboul admitted it was a difficult weekend all round for Renault, but their attention must immediately turn to the Italian Grand Prix this coming weekend.
“This weekend has been difficult for a number of reasons,” said Abiteboul. “We need to reflect and then turn our thoughts to Monza where we hope our pace can be equally decent but rewarded with more points.”