MELBOURNE, Australia -- Daniel Ricciardo always knew life at Renault was going to have its challenges, but even he didn't expect to be starting the season-opening Australian Grand Prix from lowly P12.
Ricciardo and teammate Nico Hulkenberg were both knocked out in Q2 on Saturday as Renault joined Toro Rosso and Williams as the only teams not to be represented in the final part of an enthralling qualifying session at Albert Park. The Renaults were split by just 0.08s in the end, with the advantage going to Hulkenberg, but both drivers were over two seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton's eventual pole time in the Mercedes.
"Not ideal. Being in Q3 was really the target and half a tenth (the time he missed out on Q3 by), you can always find that as a driver, so I blame myself," Ricciardo said. "The grip was there to go quicker. It's always painful when you know you haven't got 100 percent out of it.
"Normally if I don't qualify as well as I think I can, I seem to carry a little chip on my shoulder for the race and that normally helps me out. We'll give it some tomorrow."
While Ricciardo was happy to put his hand up and accept responsibility for the Q2 exit, he says he mostly felt bad for the record crowd which had poured through the gates. A sea of yellow has descended on Melbourne in the last few days with Renault quickly becoming Australia's favourite car, even if performance on track might be lacking at the moment.
"I race, first and foremost for myself, but part of me was bummed for the crowd today," Ricciardo said. "I know they would have loved to see me in Q3. That's where I felt I came up short, for them.
"I've been impressed with how much [Renault] merchandise I've seen around. I'm happy Renault is taking some cut from that, I don't, so hopefully whatever they make from that they'll put into some new parts on the car!"
A silver lining for Ricciardo and Hulkenberg is they will both get to start Sunday's race on their preferred tyre, unlike the top 10 who are locked into the tyre they set their fastest time on in Q2.
"I didn't even think of that! It's been a while since I wasn't in Q3 so a free tyre choice, alright. You probably want star performance here. Race one, everyone is going to be keen into Turn 1, so you probably want as much grip as possible heading down there. I'll think about that now."