Daniel Ricciardo believes McLaren is now the benchmark team in the midfield fight during the 2019 Formula 1 season.

McLaren heads the midfield fight in fourth place in the constructors’ championship following the opening eight rounds of the season, holding an eight-point buffer over its engine suppliers Renault.

The Woking squad scored locked out the third row of the grid during qualifying for last weekend’s French Grand Prix and converted its strong performance into another double points finish, while Renault got just one car inside the top 10.

Speaking about McLaren following Friday practice at Paul Ricard, Ricciardo said: “I don’t know what they found but they seemed strong, the benchmark in our pack now.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the full potential of the engine this weekend, I feel that we missed a bit with the setup, basic stuff,” he added after the race.

“The new tarmac, probably for those reasons we didn’t excel as well as we could have. It was shiny and really slick but high grip, it was unique.

“Overall, let’s say set up, we could have done better, and that way we would have seen the car behave a bit better.

“So we will see in Austria. I am still optimistic that we will be alright. McLaren pulled it out with no updates, so we still have some work to do.”

Reflecting on the French manufacturer’s home race, Renault chassis technical director Nick Chester said: “All in all, it was a mixed weekend We struggled a little on Friday but then found some improvements ahead of qualifying although we didn’t qualify as well as we’d like.

“Our race pace was good on both cars and Nico’s points were well deserved with a very good drive from thirteenth to eighth.

“It takes a bit of time to learn about new parts,” he added. “They were broadly positive and we’ll run them again in Austria. Back-to-back races are always a challenge and the car will largely be what we ran in France.”

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