Currently in eighth with 26 points, 2017 has so far been a season of ups and downs for Renault.
Still held back by the power and reliability of their engine, they haven’t been quite as competitive as a factory team should be, yet it’s been far doom and gloom.
Results have started to pick up lately, with Nico Hulkenberg’s P6 at the recent British Grand Prix a high-water mark the team will look to build on in the second half – which considering the state of most midfield teams, they might be positioned best to do exactly that.
After a so-so rookie season in 2016, it’s safe to say 2017 has been a colossal disappointment for Palmer. The simple truth is he’s not improving, and with new teammate Nico Hulkenberg across from him, that’s led to some damning comparisons, both in championship standing (0 points to Hulkenberg’s 26), and raw pace (outqualified by 0.760s in Hungary) that suggest Renault should look elsewhere. Depending on rumours circulating he could have already been replaced by Robert Kubica for Spa, or he has until the end of the year to prove himself – in which case, his second-half must be downright Herculean.
Proving once again why he’s one of the best drivers outside the big three teams, 2017 has been a strong season for Hulkenberg, even if he’s unlikely to end up getting much for it. Even if Jolyon Palmer’s under-performance has flattered him somewhat, his ability to take it to other members of the midfield has been on regular display, with the aforementioned P6 at Silverstone being a particularly brilliant example. There’s no reason not to expect more of the same from the German over the rest of 2017, and if the current driver partnership holds, it’ll be up to him to see how high Renault can go.
A season as frustrating as it is promising, eighth is probably not where the Enstone outfit envisioned themselves prior to the season, but compared to their immediate rivals, there’s a lot more to build on for the second half. Even with Jolyon Palmer costing them points as long as he’s in the car, Nico Hulkenberg has been able to prove the car has legitimate pace relative to the rest of the midfield, and it’s not unreasonable to expect the RS17 to continue to be a regular top-10 fixture in both qualifying and races going forward. Expect them higher by year’s end – especially if the Robert Kubica rumours prove to be true.
Big Question: How do you rate Renault and their drivers so far this season?