Even though it had been made clear that should conditions make it impossible for qualifying to take place on Sunday morning and that the final order in FP2 could decide the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix, Renault adopted a strategy which saw its two drivers attempting their qualifying sims at a time the track was busiest with rivals on longer, high-fuel runs.
“Our run sequence was basically out of sequence,” admitted Nico Hulkenberg, who, should the grid be based on the FP2 standings, start from the penultimate row alongside his teammate.
“We wanted to run low fuel and put lap times in at the end when we thought the track would be rubbered in and its best,” he continued. “But obviously all the others were on high fuel, and we couldn’t get the laps in because we kept hitting cars in traffic.
“With hindsight it’s easy to say it’s wrong how we did it,” he admitted, “but equally it didn’t work. If we don’t get qualifying, we’re very compromised.
“It was down to the unusual session, lapping out of sequence, run plan and schedule. That’s not the real picture. But it’s been a challenging day also with the car in terms of balance and harmony.
“So, we’re not as bad as 17th or 18th,” he insisted, “that’s due to circumstances, but even the top ten seems challenging right now.”
“Obviously we expected to be further up and I think we had the car to be further up,” added Daniel Ricciardo. “We got a little bit out of sync at the end, trying to get the laps in when the others were kind of on their long runs and we got caught up in a little bit of it.
“I think generally though the afternoon was better,” he added. “The morning wasn’t that strong. I wasn’t too comfortable with everything with the car and I felt we were quite a bit off so we did make progress this afternoon.
“Hopefully the weather is good enough Sunday morning to qualify, that’s the main thing, and then obviously we can race.”
Asked about the new front wing his team has brought to Suzuka, Hulkenberg said: “Today seemed a bit tricky in the afternoon. Other people seemed to have quite a bit of pace, and for me the balance wasn’t quite together.
“This is obviously quite a balance circuit, but of course it’s a compromise with how P2 especially unfolded. In the morning, I felt pretty good, but somehow that faded away in the afternoon. It was a bit of both front and rear axle not talking to each other in a good way! Not as connected as I would like them to be.
“We now have a lot of data and maybe we can find some stuff and re-optimise around that and have a good chance. We’ll have a good look and analyse everything that happened today.”
“In the morning we had a bit of back to back running,” added Ricciardo, “I think for a big part of the morning, data gathering, which took a bit of track time away from us. But in the afternoon I think we had pretty good speed out of the box, it was a lot better. But then we got caught out trying to do the laps too late.
“On paper we’re not there, but I think the times, probably not on Carlos’ pace because he was pretty quick, but around the top ten.
“We made some changes this morning which helped so I think we’ll go another step in the direction we went, and we just have to see with downforce, if it’s going to be wet, and probably add some downforce, so we’ll see what the weather is doing.”