Ahead of the opening race of the 2018 Formula One season in Australia in March 25, we assess how Renault can re-establish themselves as a competitive team.
Renault endured a miserable 2016 with just eight points, so 2017 could not have been much worse. Luckily for the French constructor they exceeded expectations with sixth place in the standings, scoring 49 points more than the previous year.
Nico Hulkenberg was the main man after his move from Force India and he duly delivered with 43 of their 57 points – finishing sixth in four races across the calendar.
Teammate Jolyon Palmer did not fare as well, though, the Briton only claiming one top-10 finish before being replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr in Austin.
Hulkenberg has been a perennial mid-table finisher since 2012, something Renault will hope changes in 2018 after a year settling into the team. He has a much more competitive teammate this year, so the pressure will be back on to deliver those points finishes again.
Hulkenberg: “I feel positive. We’ve collected a lot of miles and data over winter testing which isn’t always the case, so that’s really beneficial to the team. I have a year’s worth of experience with the Renault family so that’s a good advantage for the first race. We’ve certainly made progress, not just over the whole of 2017 but also over the winter. We won’t know anything, or where we’re at exactly, until Saturday’s qualifying. I’m ready for that challenge and excited to get down to it and give it my all.”
Carlos Sainz Jr
Having replaced Palmer with four races to go, Sainz immediately picked up some points in the United States. Much is expected of the Spaniard this time around, with team bosses no doubt keen for him to battle with Hulkenberg more than Palmer was able to. This will be his fourth F1 season, so he is now an experienced figure. it is time to help push Renault closer to Williams and Force India.
Sainz: “I’m ready and if there’s a race you’re ready for, it’s Australia. You’ve been thinking and preparing for it for months, so it’s a race which brings high levels of motivation. I’ve done my best to pass the time through the off-season, I’ve done a lot of training, driven at Rallye Monte-Carlo and enjoyed testing in Barcelona. But now the time has come to get down to it and we have to refocus the body and the mind to getting the best results in 2018.”
Team Principal, Cyril Abiteboul: Ahead of us is a very long 21-race calendar during which many things will happen. This puts a premium on stability and consistency, which we feel we have increased as we enter our third year as Renault Sport Formula One Team. We are totally realistic that the midfield is very close, but our objectives are to start the season in the way we finished 2017: united, dedicated, racing hard and pushing all the way.
The To-Do List
Keep the banter flowing. Social media is just as competitive as on-track racing in F1® and Renault are undoubtedly the kings of Twitter. Their unique insights into life in the paddock need to continue as F1® looks to attract a new, younger audience.
Take the next step. Having recovered from their 2016 slump, now is the time to reign Force India and Williams in. Renault have to be fast and competitive if they are to worry the front of the grid in 2018.
How will they fare?
Hulkenberg and Sainz possess the talent to lift Renault back into the hunt for podiums in 2018, providing the car underneath them can deliver.