#TheXtraLap Renault: Money can’t always buy success

At the start of a new season, the team has a new face in the car in the form of Daniel Ricciardo from RedBull to earn a large salary, racing the black and yellow car in 2019.

Renault have committed themselves to set higher goals and more budget has been freed up to spend on the engine, the staff and the structure of the team. Nico Hulkenberg is still with Renault as his experience is highly regarded within the team. The goal, to become 4th in the constructors’ championship.

Australia. First race of the season and a home-race for Ricciardo. Both drivers didn’t make it out of Q2 but were very close as Hulkenberg qualified in 11th, just 0.030s. off Q3 while Ricciardo qualified 12th, just 0.008s. behind Hulkenberg. Chances enough on Sunday for a good result but Ricciardo went off track at the start and hit a sunken bit of tarmac, which caused his frontwing to break into a million pieces. He had to pit and ultimately retire from the race. Hulkenberg however, managed to finish 7th.

Bahrain. Race two wasn’t much better when Hulkenberg couldn’t get out of Q1 on Saturday and had to start from 17th. Ricciardo didn’t do a lot better and got stuck in Q2 so he had to start the race from 11th. On Sunday, it all looked good and both Renault drivers were running as high as 6th and 7th until both drivers came into turn 1 and they made contact when Hulkenberg ran over Ricciardo’s front-wing. It might have been an omen as both drivers DNF’d on lap 53 with Ricciardo having a power loss and Hulkenberg having a problem with his engine.

China. The weekend started off great as Ricciardo qualified 7th and Hulkenreg 8th but it was just Saturday and it all needed to be done on Sunday. Raceday and it didn’t go as planned. While Ricciardo managed to finish 7th, Hulkenberg had another DNF with a power unit issue.

Baku. It was clear that the Renault engine and chassis wasn’t a great combination on Saturday as Hulkenberg didn’t reach Q2 and had to start from 16th on the grid. Ricciardo did make Q2 but that was it so he had to start from 11th. Sunday started off okay but at lap 31, Ricciardo DNF’d due to a collision (which he caused). Hulkenberg however, made the finish but was a lap down in 14th.

Spain. On Saturday, Ricciardo had to have a great qualifying as he still had the 3 place grid drop from his contact with Kvyat at Baku. He managed to get up to Q3 and 10th on the grid, 13th on Sunday. Hulkenberg had a less fun Saturday as he didn’t get out of Q1 and had to start 16th. On Sunday, Hulkenberg started from pitlane due to multiple changes to the car. He finished 13th, just 1 place behind Ricciardo in 12th

Monaco. On the narrow streets of Monte-Carlo, both Renault drivers had a decent Saturday when Hulkenberg qualified in 11th while Ricciardo managed to squeeze a bit extra out of the car to qualify in 7th. The race on Sunday didn’t bring the points the team was hoping for as Hulkenberg didn’t finish higher than 13th position and Ricciardo came home in 9th.

Six races done and what are the signs so far?

What started as a team with high hopes, is currently a team looking for answers. Results are not what they were hoping for and both drivers are very vocal on what needs to change so that they can fight for higher positions. Updates are expected so the team is still in good spirits.

Canada. It was the team’s best Saturday as both drivers reached Q3 and Hulkenberg qualified in 7th. Ricciardo however, was the surprise of the day as he put his car in 4th position. Sunday saw both drivers having a great race and both drivers ended up in the points with Ricciardo in 6th and Hulkenberg in 7th.

France. The race at Paul Ricard wasn’t exciting but it started okay for the yellow&black team as Ricciardo qualified 8th on Saturday while Hulkenberg got up to 13th. On Sunday the roles were reversed as Hulkenberg had a great race to finish 8th while Ricciardo went backwards and finished 11th.

Austria. On Saturday, both drivers couldn’t get out of Q2 so Hulkenberg had to start from 12th while Ricciardo was 2 places behind him in 14th. After an exciting race on Sunday, there were again, no points for Renault as Ricciardo finished in 12th and Hulkenberg in 13th.

England. New weekend, new qualifying and both drivers made it into Q3 on Saturday when Ricciardo qualified in 7th and Hulkenberg in 10th. Double points for Renault in an eventful race with Ricciardo finishing in 7th and Hulkenberg in 10th.

Germany. A Saturday of mixed feelings as Ricciardo got stuck in Q2 when he qualified 13th while Hulkenberg managed to qualify in 9th. A great start on Sunday went from bad to worse as Ricciardo had a DNF due to exhaust issue. Hulkenberg was upfront and could’ve battled for his first-ever podium place but he slid off the track and couldn’t recover. He DNF’d aswell.

Hungary. Final race before the summer break and the team needed a morale boost. It wasn’t meant to be on Saturday as Ricciardo didn’t make Q2 and had to start in 18th while Hulkenberg did make Q2 but missed out on Q3 by 0.04 of a second so had to start 11th. The race on Sunday, although very fun to watch, didn’t bring any points again as Hulkenberg crossed the finish line in 12th while Ricciardo came home in 14th.

Now it’s the summer break so what did we learn so far?

Renault started the season with the goal of becoming the 4th fastest team with a slight chance of fighting for a podium. They took Ricciardo onboard as a top driver and together with the experienced Hulkenberg, should be in a position to fight for 4th. Sadly, the car has let them down on many occasions and I’m not sure if they can get to that level either.

Seeing how well McLaren is doing as a Renault customer (like RedBull has done before), I’m not sure what the answer will be to fix their problem, other than a lot of money.

Maybe it is the chassis that isn’t right, maybe the overall design of the car or even the engine, although some media have suggested that Renault did reach the 1000bhp. No matter what the issue, they need to fix it fast or they will lose fifth place to Alfa Romeo, who are just 7 points behind them.

#TheXtraLap Alfa Romeo: Something old and something new.