The Renault Formula 1 team says the “shock” of its Austria tyre problems led to the unusual strategy that propelled Nico Hulkenberg to sixth place in the British Grand Prix.
Hulkenberg and team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr were the only drivers to start on the medium tyre at Silverstone and then switched to the hards, which no one else used at all during the race.
That followed a Red Bull Ring event in which Sainz suffered more tyre blistering than other cars.
“It was a strategy which was imposed upon us because of the current characteristic of the car,” Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul told Autosport.
“We’re still coming from the shock of Austria, where our strategy was destroyed after the blistering that happened with Carlos, who otherwise would have done a great race.
“Coming from that situation, and learning out of it for a couple of days, we made a decision to go for medium and hard compound.
“We were the only one to use the hard compound which we tested on Friday afternoon, and we could see that we had a decent pace on that compound in comparison to other teams, so we decided to go for that.”
While Hulkenberg ran to the flag on hard tyres to earn sixth, Sainz made a later switch to soft tyres before colliding with Romain Grosjean.
Abiteboul acknowledged that Renault’s tyre problems were clear for everyone in the paddock to see, and that a full solution might take time.
“We know that we have a car that is degrading the tyres much more than any other team, that’s a fact, we know that,” he said.
“Our competitors know that also, so there is no point in hiding.
“We have to focus on that by working on downforce, and the whole ride and compliance of the car, particularly at a track like [Silverstone], which is very bumpy, with lots of high-speed corners, so the car is jumping, and the tyres are taking lots of energy and degrading.
“So we know the issue, we know we obviously have some solutions, but it’s going to take us a bit of time.”
The eight points for Hulkenberg’s sixth place means Renault is now 19 clear of McLaren in fourth in the constructors’ championship.
Abiteboul admitted Renault had not expected to outscore its main rivals at Silverstone.
“It’s a track where given the characteristics of the car, the performance power deficit, and a couple of other factors, we knew that we were on the back foot,” he said.
“But we managed to turn that around, which is great.”