Despite some “promising moments”, the dramatic resurgence of Daniel Ricciardo has exposed Renault team-mate Esteban Ocon, according to former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer.
It was Renault’s first F1 podium since 2011.
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In the F1 drivers’ standings, Ricciardo is in fourth place ahead of all Ferrari and Racing Point drivers, one place behind former Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen, with the Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas taking the lead.
However, Ocon wasn’t that successful – the French driver only cracked the top 5 once this year and is currently 12th with 36 points.
In his first season with Renault, Ocon overqualified Ricciardo only once during a wet session at the Styrian Grand Prix in July.
Although Ocon has had no problems in F1 this year, Palmer believes the 24-year-old cannot “hold up well” against his Australian counterpart.
“Ricciardo was brilliant in 2020 and is currently making Ocon look pretty average on his return to full-time driving,” Palmer told BBC Sport.
“Ocon is a young rider with good potential – and he showed it with Sergio Perez at Force India in 2017 and 2018 – but he just can’t hold up well against Ricciardo, which is a sign of how consistently the Australian is at this Season cuts off.
“Although he was only a fraction behind Ricciardo in qualifying at the Nürburgring, Ocon has had an average deficit of almost 0.2 seconds in the season so far.
“But it’s actually the races where the difference is bigger.
“At this Grand Prix in Styria, where Ocon qualified, it wasn’t long before Ricciardo crawled over the Frenchman’s back and finally got through. And in Sochi, the race before the Nürburgring, Ricciardo overtook Ocon after a bad start and was finally a full 26 seconds ahead.
“It is not to be said that Ocon was particularly poor. He had promising moments and more reliability issues than Ricciardo and is new to the team after a season on the sidelines.
“But I’m sure Renault will also be surprised how Ricciardo outperforms his newcomer. He is in the best shape he has been in for a while and this year he can actually reach a higher championship position than he did in his last two seasons at Red Bull. ”
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Renault has not been in the top three of an F1 season since 2007 – the French team is currently six points behind third-placed Racing Point in the constructors’ championship.
“Overall, Renault is fifth among the ten teams in the overall standings this year, with six races to go,” said Palmer.
“But in fact there are now signs of real progress and after Ricciardo’s result on Sunday there is more than just a trophy and some champagne to celebrate.
“They finally seem to be making progress and that result has been at stake for some time. Since Ricciardo upgraded the car at Silverstone, he’s been a qualifier in the second row and, alongside these three fourth places, is the fastest lap setter.
“These are just rewards for the effort and progress Renault has made after a disappointing 2019 and it was great to see the smiles on the faces of my former colleagues under the podium on Sunday.
“This is an opportunity for the team to develop, rather than resting on the laurels of a groundbreaking podium.
“Esteban Ocon, Ricciardo’s young team-mate, has had some reliability issues so far, but Renault hopes that he can also find a bit more shape to keep up with Ricciardo and score more points for Renault’s championship goals.”
Palmer represented Renault in F1 for two seasons in 2016 and 2017, where he earned nine career points.
The Portuguese Grand Prix starts on Monday morning AEDT. The lights are out for 12:10 a.m.
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