Thursday, February 11, 2021

1 Racing Mind’s Formula 1 Season Ending Team Report Card: Renault DP World F1 Team

Photo Credit: XPB / James Moy Photography Ltd./ F1 Renault Group

Team Grade: B+

Overall Season: 

Besides Racing Point, the Formula 1 constructor name that comes to mind when mentioning biggest year-to-year gains is the Renault DP World F1 Team. The 2019 season was regarded as a disappointment when accounting the team’s commitment, resources and driving talent. Competing in a 2020 season that was four races shorter than 2019, the French automakers’ grand prix team came a point short of doubling their total point tally in the constructors’ standings. Though the Renault name has a storied history in Formula 1, the results since their 2016 return to the sport as a factory constructor team had been a rough affair up until this past year. 

Renault DP World F1 Team’s 2020 challenger, the R.S. 20 race car, showcased itself as not only a reliable top-10 finisher but as a vehicle that could be a spoiler in some grand prix races. Three times, the race car was driven to a podium finish including a runner-up position at the second-last race of the season. Navigated around the Formula 1 tracks by the popular Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo teamed up with new Renault pilot Esteban Ocon. Ricciardo captured a pair of third-place finishes while Ocon claimed a surprise runner-up finish at the Sakhir Grand Prix

Achievements During 2020 Season: 

On-track success for Renault DP World F1 Team was marked by  Seven races for the Renault DP World F1 Team ended with both cars finishing in the top 10. 

Not an event that accounted for one of their three podium results in 2020, the Belgian Grand Prix was probably one of the most triumphant moments for the team. A track known to demanding supreme engine power as well as stable handling for some challenging corners, Renault’s R.S.20 race cars and drivers gave a profound demonstration of the team’s potential. Daniel Ricciardo started fourth and finished fourth while Esteban Ocon qualified sixth and gained a spot to finish fifth in the race at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. In addition to the consistently strong effort over 44 laps, Ricciardo recorded the fastest lap in the Belgian Grand Prix race. The Australian and the Renault team would also post the fastest race lap in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

Shortcomings During 2020 Season:

A weak outing for the Renault DP World F1 Team was the Spanish Grand Prix. While it was a common sight to see at least one of the R.S. 20 race cars within the first five rows of a grand prix grid throughout 2020, Daniel Ricciardo started the event in 13th place and Esteban Ocon would leap on the opening lap from 15th place. This result for the team came after a Friday practice session where Ricciardo was fourth and Ocon was ninth. On race day, neither driver was able to significantly improve from their grid positions over the course of the 66-lap ordeal on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Team's Drivers

#3 Daniel Ricciardo: B

Photo Credit: XPB / James Moy Photography Ltd./ F1 Renault Group

Overall Season: 

Leaving Red Bull Racing after the 2018 season for the Renault DP World F1 Team, it was seen as a well-calculated gamble for Daniel Ricciardo joining an organization that possessed resources to be a leading contender in the sport but lacking track success since their 2016 return. While entering the 2019 season with great positivity and optimism, Ricciardo endured a somewhat disappointing 21-race run scoring the least enough of drivers’ championship points since he was with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2013.  

In the second year of a two-year contract with Renault DP World F1 Team, Ricciardo announced prior to the start of the 2020 Formula 1 season in July that he would jump to McLaren Racing for 2021. Despite the news the driver would be departing the team, the Renault organization remained supportive of the Australian throughout the past year realizing their mutual interests of a strong 2020 campaign. Over the course of 17 races, Daniel Ricciardo scored points in 14 events and finishing in the top-5 in the final results 7 times.

Achievements During 2020 Season: 

In the opening nine races of the 2020 Formula 1 calendar, Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth on three occasions with one of those being an exceptionally strong performance at the Belgian Grand Prix where he started a season-best fourth on the grid. Knocking on the door for a podium finish through the first-half of 2020, the Australian was finally able to partake in his personal ritual of drinking champagne out of his driving shoe with a third place finish at the Eifel Grand Prix at Germany’s Nurburgring. Ricciardo would return to the podium two races later at the Imola circuit for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo has also been the Renault DP World F1 Team’s primary source of speed behind the wheel of the R.S. 20 race car. Out-qualifying his teammate Esteban Ocon on all but two occasions over 17 races, Ricciardo made the Q3 session in qualifying for all but three of the seventeen events. The Australian driver was also the source of Renault’s two fastest race laps of the season at the Belgian Grand Prix and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

Daniel Ricciardo’s season-long points total were enough to place him fifth in the 2020 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship. 

Shortcomings During 2020 Season:  

Experiencing a very consistent season in the top-10, Daniel Ricciardo’s only major faltering came in a two-race span. 

The first of the outlying races for the Ricciardo was the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix held on the Silverstone Circuit. The weekend for the #3 car started off well earning a fifth place grid position during a Saturday qualifying session but Sunday’s main event was deflating for the Australian. On lap 31 while competing in the middle of a tight battle between 8th and 12th places involving drivers Daniil Kvyat, Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz Jr. and teammate Esteban Ocon, Ricciardo spun his Renault coming out of Silverstone’s turn three. Daniel Ricciardo finished the race in the 14th place spot.  

Following the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the Spanish Grand Prix was generally regarded as a lousy weekend for the entire Renault DP World F1 Team. Ricciardo showed a moment of brightness for the organization when he was fourth fastest in the second Friday practice session but the event went downhill during Saturday and Sunday. Starting 13th, the driver of the #3 Renault settled with a 11th place result.

#31 Esteban Ocon: B-

Photo Credit: XPB / James Moy Photography Ltd./ F1 Renault Group 

Overall Season: 

The most elite form of racing in the world, Formula 1 is an exclusive club only a handful of motorsport drivers gain entry. With only 20 driving spots in the field in the current tour, hundreds of aspiring auto racing athletes compete for a slim chance simply to drive a Formula 1 machine in a single grand prix. Last year, French driver Esteban Ocon was squeezed out of the sport after competing with the former Manor Racing for a nine-race stint ending the 2016 Formula 1 calendar and two season with Force India. For 2020, Ocon rejoined the premium open wheel racing tour by signing with the Renault DP World F1 Team. 

One of only two driver moves heading into the 2020, Esteban Ocon’s arrival to Renault coinciding with the complications of the shortened, altered competitive season resulted in a potentially greater challenge for the Frenchman than other returning drivers. Despite posting ten top 10 finishes in the 17-race Formula 1 season, Ocon was viewed as having more difficulty than Renault teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Ocon’s #31 car suffered four retirements during the 2020 season compared to just one by Ricciardo but the French driver’s races were cut short three times by mechanical issues.

Esteban Ocon ended the season strong in the second-last event in Bahrain capturing a runner-up finish.


Achievements During 2020 Season: 

After a one-year hiatus from Formula 1, Esteban Ocon scored four championship points in his debut with Renault by finishing the Austrian Grand Prix in eighth. “It felt good to be back racing properly today. Finishing in the points is a great result, especially as I’m still a little rusty!” said the Frenchman in a post-race press release from Renault after the event on the Red Bull Ring. 

Over the span of the first 15 races, Esteban Ocon’s best finish has been a respectable fifth place in an overall strong effort for the entire Renault DP World F1 Team. The 16th race of the 2020 season was a career-defining event for Ocon occurring on the 3.543-kilometer track within the Bahrain International Circuit. Starting in the middle of the grid in 11th place, the French driver of the #31 Renault moved up the field of Sunday’s 87-lap main race thanks to a single pit stop strategy and some spiffy driving through the early stage of the tire run. Aided in part by the mayhem of the latter third of the Sakhir Grand Prix, Esteban Ocon held on to second place capturing his first-career Formula 1 podium.

Shortcomings During 2020 Season: 

Rejoining the Formula 1 tour after a one-year absence, Esteban Ocon quite possibly experienced one of the longest learning curves (besides Williams Racing’s Nicholas Latifi) among full-time drivers in 2020. In truth, Ocon’s performance with Renault DP World F1 Team was pretty close to the consistency he displayed in 2018. However, his previous stint in Formula 1 did involve Force India’s turbulent mid-season transition to Racing Point’s ownership. The big downside to Esteban Ocon’s 2020 season was his efforts were overshadowed by his Renault teammate.

Only twice in qualifying for the 17 events of 2020 was Ocon able beat Ricciardo for grid position. Ocon also missed the top 10 in event qualifying on 8 occasions while his Australian teammate had just three events where he placed outside of the Q3 session. 

Esteban Ocon experienced four of the total five retirements recorded by the Renault DP World F1 Team but that was more due to bad luck than driver-related causes. In fact, all of Ocon’s DNFs are attributed to mechanical failures such as an overheating problem in the Styrian Grand Prix and failing hydraulics at the Eifel Grand Prix.

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