Renault’s pre-season testing data suggests that the leading midfield teams could all be “within a tenth” of each other when the 2020 Formula 1 season begins, according to Daniel Ricciardo.

The midfield pack looked closely matched during pre-season testing in Barcelona, leading to suggestions of another tight battle for supremacy behind the leading trio of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull before the COVID-19 crisis delayed the start of the campaign.

Speaking on the latest F1 Nation podcast, Ricciardo revealed that it was “really hard” to figure out which team was leading the midfield order from Renault’s winter testing analysis. 

“I certainly expect to be close,” Ricciardo explained.

“All we’ve got now is testing back in February, and we kind of had our analysis after the testing and tried to figure out where everyone stands, and all I can say is, the lead midfield car, it was really hard to kind of figure it out if it was us or not.

“It looked like I would say at least three of our midfield teams were all within a tenth.

“Austria for us last year was maybe our worst actual weekend of the year. So I think if we could come out there and be at the front of the midfield, I think that looks good for us for the rest of the season.

“But it’s hard to predict, to be honest.”

With the disrupted 2020 campaign finally starting in two weeks’ time with back-to-back races in Austria, teams have been stepping up their preparations in recent weeks by conducting private tests.

Renault returned to the track last week at the Red Bull Ring behind the wheel of the 2018-spec R.S.18 as the French manufacturer carried out a two-day test, and Ricciardo said the outing highlighted how much progress the team has made.

“It was good to get back into it,” he added.

“The first few laps it felt a little foreign, but it’s also like all things - when you’ve been doing something pretty much your whole life, it doesn’t take long to remember the feeling, and it all feels very normal very quickly.

“But certainly getting in the first time, leaving the pits and the first few laps felt a little strange, but I’m really glad we got to do it because shaking off the cobwebs, even your general body soreness that you get after the first day, I feel like I’ve gone through that now.”

Asked how Renault's 2018 car compared to its latest challenger, Ricciardo replied: "No, it wasn’t as good. There were improvements last year, but obviously we did get to drive the R.S.20 obviously in testing before all this pandemic started.

“It’s come a long way in two years, I’ll say that. It actually was quite nice driving a two-year-old car, because it shows you the progress the sport makes.”

 

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