While in their post-race press release they trumpet solid points finish, the facts are that Renault were one of the biggest disappointments of the Formula 1 season-opening Australian Grand Prix – as a team as an engine supplier.
In a season in which they were supposed to edge closer to the top three teams and podiums are on their script, they appear to have gone backwards.
Daniel Ricciardo had a hugely disappointing debut for the team on home soil, smacking a gutter (what are track walks for?) as he got on the grass as the field roared towards Turn 1 and bust his front wing. From then on he was out of the running.
In the sister car, Hulkenberg soldiered on to finish seventh for the umpteenth time in his career, bringing some joy to the team which under-delivered on the day.
McLaren had the embarrassment of the first engine failure when the Renault PU on Carlos Sainz’s car went up in smoke, there was no noticeable ‘party mode’ and the race pace was hardly impressive compared to, for instance, Red Bull…
No matter how they spin it, this was not the start to the new campaign they were targeting and force them back to the drawing board in the team department as well as the engine warehouse.
Renault report from race day in Melbourne:
Renault F1 Team began the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship with a solid points finish courtesy of Nico Hülkenberg’s seventh place in the Rolex Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne.
Nico made an excellent start from eleventh on the grid, rising to eighth on the opening lap before driving a conservative race to the flag in seventh place, a repeat of the result recorded in Australia last season.
Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, making his debut for the team at his home Grand Prix, retired on lap 28 as a precaution following damage to the car suffered during an unfortunate lap one incident.
After making a bright start off the line, Daniel lost his front wing after running wide on the main straight, forcing him into an early pit-stop for a front wing change. He was consequently forced to retire later in the race as a preventative measure.
- Nico started from P11 on Pirelli’s Soft (red) tyres, battling his way to eighth on the opening lap. He inherited seventh after pitting for Hard (white) tyres on lap 13 and defended that position to the end.
- Daniel started from P12 on Soft tyres, pitting at the end of lap one for a nose and front wing change, as well as Hard tyres. He retired on lap 28 as a precaution for his lap one incident.
Nico Hülkenberg, P7: “It’s a good start to the season with some solid points on the board. It was a tricky race – especially the final 10 laps – I was under pressure and really had to fight to hang onto seventh place. I’m pleased to pull that off.”
“The start and the first lap made our race; it’s so crucial to have track position around here and from there it was about managing the car and the tyres.”
“We can be pleased with today, it’s a positive result, but it also shows we have a lot of work ahead of us. We need to dig deep and continue finding performance especially to improve the car balance.”
Daniel Ricciardo, P12: “I’m gutted, that’s for sure. I made a good start, managed to get a good run on Perez and then moved to the side. I put a wheel on the grass, which didn’t concern me, and then a massive bump caught me by surprise.”
“It’s unlucky more than anything and, unfortunately, that was our race run there and then. It all happened very quickly and it was a shame we finished like that. Nico showed in the race that the car belongs in the top eight and we’ll be aiming for a smoother weekend in Bahrain and a strong result.”
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal: “We’re leaving Australia with mixed feelings and a contrast of positive and negatives. The main negative was Qualifying, where we had a number of issues that impacted our potential and starting position.”
“That made Daniel’s first race complex and we tried to recover positions at the start but we ultimately had to retire his car due to the damage. Nico managed to turn around the situation and had a very strong race. He was very smart and drove a good race to finish seventh.”
“We know the car has much more pace than we have shown, especially in Qualifying, and it will be the priority of the next race to extract more from the initial platform with a smoother execution across the weekend while we work on our planned upgrades.”
Big Question: Are the Renault PUs the worst on the grid now?