New-look Daniel Ricciardo not playing games

Daniel Ricciardo means business this weekend, quietly optimistic Renault has the package to deliver after taking a “big step”.

The Australian F1 star was third quickest in the second practice session ahead of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix — the second consecutive race at Britain’s iconic Silverstone circuit — and was upbeat when asked if he could replicate that performance when it mattered.

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“If we do what we did this afternoon, then yeah. And I think that was genuine for the track conditions,” Ricciardo said.

“We did a few changes through the session, and I really felt a big step with one of the changes we made, and I was like, ‘This is a pretty good race car right now’.

“So I think we can hang in there. We’ll see. If we’re here in quali, I think that would still exceed what probably our expectation is now, but I think we can still do a very good job.”

Ricciardo equalled his best ever finish with Renault in his last start, crossing the line fourth in the British Grand Prix. He’s hopeful of similarly strong performances in qualifying and in the main event on Sunday but is wary of other variables at play.

“The big thing is tomorrow, the wind is changing 180 degrees by the looks of it, and it’s going to pick up,” he said. “People at home will go, so what? But that is going to change the balance and the cars a lot.

“So I think tomorrow … there might be a different story and there’ll be a few other things going on, but we certainly put ourselves in a good place today.”

It’s rare to see Ricciardo without a smile on his face and he’s forever playing jokes in the paddock, but F1 broadcaster Will Buxton noticed something was different with the West Australian after practice.

Buxton said the 31-year-old was the “most serious he’s been all year”, suggesting he’s fully focused because this might be his best chance for an inaugural podium with Renault.

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There were plenty of positive signs for Renault.Source:AFP

“Down at Renault doing post session interviews. Ricciardo the least jokey and most serious he’s been all year,” Buxton wrote on Twitter.

“Not in a negative way. Quite the opposite. Genuinely high hopes down here of a really decent showing this weekend.

“He was positive but he wasn’t joking about.

“There’s a big difference between Daniel being positive and him playing the fool. I’ve known him long enough to know the difference and what that means about his mindset.”

Renault is fifth in the constructors’ standings while Ricciardo is a lowly ninth in the drivers’ championship, having retired from the year’s first race in Austria because of a gearbox issue before following that up with two eighth-placed finishes and fourth last week.

His teammate Esteban Ocon is two spots below Ricciardo and is also buoyed by Renault’s performance in practice.

“We tested a lot of different things across the cars. It’s good to see that we are capable of being in the top 10 obviously, and seeing Daniel putting it up there, it’s quite nice,” Ocon said.

“It means the car has the speed.

“We did change quite a lot of things (since the British GP), especially confirming things between the cars, and we have some stuff that we will carry on with, and some stuff that is not worth carrying on.

“So it was good overall.”

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