'Strange' performance swing confuses Renault
Renault is confused by its "strange" Spanish Grand Prix performance swing, where its race pace was stronger than qualifying for the first time in the 2017 Formula 1 season.
The French manufacturer has made significant gains over the winter and new signing Nico Hulkenberg has already scored more points in the first five races than the team did in the entirety of its comeback season last year.
In the first four race weekends, strong qualifying performances - such as getting both cars into Q3 in Bahrain - were followed by less-impressive race pace.
At Barcelona last weekend Hulkenberg qualified 13th and Jolyon Palmer 17th but on race day, the former combined a strong start - which moved him up to seventh - and smart strategy in an attitional race to finish sixth.
"It was a strange weekend for us because usually we are very good qualifying and have more difficult Sundays," Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul told Autosport.
"This time, it was a little bit the opposite."
When asked what influenced the swing in performance, Abiteboul replied: "I don't know."
He added: "We were really surprised, extremely frustrated and a bit shocked frankly by our pace in qualifying.
"It was not at all what we were expecting coming from FP2 and FP3, but the race pace was more encouraging."
Abiteboul hinted it could have been down to the conditions at Barcelona, where all of the teams struggled with the windy conditions and getting the tyres into the right window.
"We have some explanations," he added. "I think it's a mix of things like all teams.
"It's difficult to predict how the tyres are going to operate and if you're in the window where they need to be - we're still trying to find our feet in that area.
"We have engineered a car that is more sensitive to the ambient conditions, but our car in particular is more sensitive, I believe, to traffic but also to crosswinds so that is going to be an area of research.
"If there is one element that changed, the wind picked up a bit - that may be an area to look at.
"The wind is the same for everyone but it might be that wind is affecting us more than most."
Sixth was Renault's best finish since it returned to F1 and helped the team leapfrog Haas into seventh in the constructors' championship.
"It was an encouraging weekend," he said. "It's a bit the circumstances in which this has happened, so we don't get too excited.
"We need to look back, we need to be busy, keep our heads down and focus."