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Ricciardo says recent form has 'ignited a pretty nice fire'

LE CASTELLET, France -- Daniel Ricciardo feels invigorated by his recent performances for Renault, something he thinks is mirrored in the atmosphere at the team.

Ricciardo turned in his best weekend of the season so far at the Canadian Grand Prix, qualifying fourth and finishing sixth at the circuit he claimed his maiden F1 victory at in 2014.

One standout feature of Ricciardo's race was an entertaining fight with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. Ricciardo turned in some stern defensive moves to keep the quicker silver car at bay for several laps, something Bottas admitted afterwards had been hard but fair racing.

Much was made of Ricciardo's move down the grid from Red Bull to Renault for this season and Ricciardo admitted his attitude to that battle was influenced by that.

Asked if the duel with Bottas felt a bit like making a statement to critics of that switch, Ricciardo said: "Yeah, I think there was more.

"I was running fourth at the time, so I wanted to fight as hard as I could to keep that. I knew the odds were against me. It just felt too easy to let him go, and maybe it would have been better for my tyres and my race in the end...

"I was like 'let's put up a fight'. I knew I was clearly the underdog in that battle. He was on fresher tyres, in a faster car. I was like -- let's test myself here and try and keep him back as long as I could. That was a little personal challenge for me as well. I also thought that everyone expected us to drop behind the faster cars in the race, so I thought well if I can maybe give the team of something to get excited for again, then why not?

"I did it a few laps, and actually then that increased the kind of fight in me. I thought if I've done it for three, four laps now, maybe I could do it for another 40 or something! It was nice to race one of those cars that's won races this year. Part of me as well was reiteration for me that I belong there, and I wanted to show the team that the car can run there.

"There was certainly some aggression behind the visor for those few laps. Happy aggression."

The Australian driver hopes it gave Renault a timely boost at a key point in the season, its home race at the French Grand Prix this weekend.

"It was important, for sure. think it had slowly been coming, like we'd started to put a string of Q3s together. I think we were slowly releasing that weight.

"It did two good things: obviously it gave everyone a bit of a lift. But it also I feel ignited a pretty nice fire. The team had their first taste of a pretty big result in a while, especially the qualifying, nearly getting interviewed after qualifying [in the top three]!

"I think even just getting a sniff of that was good to see. Obviously the competitor in me obviously wants that, and that's always there. Seeing it within the engineers, the mechanics and everyone, everyone just had a buzz about them. It was nice."

Ricciardo said he was not panicked during the opening two months of the season, which saw Renault suffer with reliability issues and record just two top-ten finishes in the opening five races.

"I remained fairly relaxed through it all. I knew that I still had a lot for myself to get out of it. I guess I in a way focused continuously on myself, that my speed would come and the team, I guess I knew it would kind of grow naturally over time.

"It's certainly flourished quite a bit the last few races. It's nice now, it's really nice. I'm getting used to it, but the car's improving, and the whole dynamic is transforming. Like all those things, it's going to be, to get really inside the top five every weekend, that's then that other step. We've made the first step there at least which is not bad after seven races I guess."