Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Albert Park, 2018

Hulkenberg concerned Renault has fallen further behind top teams

2018 F1 season

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Nico Hulkenberg said the Australian Grand Prix showed Renault hasn’t closed the gap to the top three teams over the winter.

Both Renaults reached Q3 and finished in the points at Albert Park but Hulkenberg said he is concerned by “the gap to the front.”

“These guys are kind of flying,” he said. “We wanted to close the gap over the winter, that was our aim and if anything it looked like the gap was bigger, even in qualifying. That’s not so great. Got a lot of work to do.”

However Hulkenberg said the team should be satisfied with its result in Australia. “We got a bit lucky on one side with the Haases dropping out, a bit unlucky during the Safety Car, we got jumped by Fernando [Alonso] because he had help with the Safety Car.

Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Albert Park, 2018
2018 Australian Grand Prix in pictures
“Otherwise we would definitely have been ahead of him. The pace of the car today was really good and competitive. That’s the good news.”

Analysis of lap times in Melbourne indicated Renault has made the biggest year-on-year gain of any team, lapping 1.9s faster than they did in 2017.

Renault’s technical director Nick Chester said they “were expecting that the top three teams would have a gap and that it would be a fight between us, McLaren and Haas at the top of the midfield.”

“It looks pretty much like that. We were reasonably encouraged because I think if you look at Carlos [Sainz Jnr’s] Q2 lap, he knew he had a poor Q3 lap, then he could have been in front of the Haases. We’re a bit quicker than McLaren so it wasn’t bad. We’re in a position to get to the top of that group and behind the top three teams which is where we wanted to be.”

The performance of Haas was one of the big talking points of the first race weekend but Chester expected they would have a greater advantage over the rest of the midfield.

“We thought it was a bit bigger in the second week of winter testing so we were a bit worried about it. But actually it looks like, if you take Q2 as an example, we can be as quick and we’re hoping to add development from there.”

“Aerodynamically we know there’s some areas we want to improve in,” he added. “Just improving the overall load and consistency across the whole range of operating conditions the car sees. That’s sort of normal development. There’s a few interesting ideas on other cars we’ll start pursuing.

“Engine side, Viry have got a development plan through the year to bring two or three upgrades. That’ll be good because there’s still a bit of a power deficit. We’ll hopefully close that a little bit.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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28 comments on “Hulkenberg concerned Renault has fallen further behind top teams”

  1. So basically every team thinks they can do better in qualifying.. Gives credit to the few who actually nailed right out of the box, Hamilton and a few others.

    1. Of course it’s much easier to pretend that Hamilton simply pressed a button instead of that he hit the sweet spot for the tyres AND that he ran a mostly faultless lap.

      1. Party mode isn’t just about pressing a button. Just look at Bottas’s results last year. But it still is a pretty quick engine mode if you are already a very good qualifier

  2. For some reason, I really don’t foresee this iteration of Renault hitting the heights of 2005-2006.
    Having said that, they have made massive progress since 2016 and maybe the new engine regs will favour them.
    It’ll be interesting to see the relationship between the works team and Red Bull/McLaren in the coming years if Renault start to become competitive.

    1. Well if they had Alonso, Michellin like tires and some luck… They would.

  3. Maybe it’s too soon for bold conclusions.

  4. Nico shouldn’t be too hard on the team- they will take some time to get back to top 3 or 4!

    More concerning is Force India! I caught up for a coffee Monday after the race with a bloke who is VERY high up in FIA and he said they were lucky to get there in Australia at all and has almost no cash flow!

    Not great for a team that has finished 4th the past few years. This really needs to change for F1 to keep it real! Equal income is needed or F1 will fail in 10 years- we cant have that!!

    1. @garns What a lucky coincidence that you happened to be in the same place at the same time as an FIA-employee, LOL.

      1. @jerejj – So are you calling me a liar? It wasn’t an coincidence, as you say, without any knowledge, but a meeting for a coffee. I can show you texts and photos of the kids if you like?? Pull your head in!!

        I am not rich but I do spend money on F1. A lot. So some one like you saying I am a liar really ticks me off! Get some good tickets, go to F1 and met some people, you may be surprised – you may like it! Enjoy.

        @keithcollantine– people like this make this site harder. You know I get to a few races but people like this that basically call me a liar is intolerable………….. too hard………

        1. @garns, whilst perhaps his post came across as unintentionally harsh, I can understand the scepticism given that there have been a few incidents in the past with individuals having claimed to have been connected with the world of F1 or to have met figures involved in the sport, only for those claims to be either exaggerated or altogether false. It’s not to disparage what you say, only to say that it is understandable why some might be dubious about accepting your words at face value.

        2. @garns I never called you a liar nor even implied that way, though. I indeed did believe you in the first place. How could anyone take my wording differently than what I ‘rather obviously’ was referring? My point was (or should’ve been) rather obvious, LOL

          1. @jerejj – ok, please accept my apology mate, in reading back my response was too sharp tounged.

            I do get to a few races and over time have met a few on the inner santum, so wasn’t trying to big note myself, just sharing what those it the game are saying.

            Again, my apologies if I offended.

        3. @garns None taken. Your wording might have confused me a bit at first, which is why I thought you were implying that you by ‘a mere coincidence’ happened to be in the same place at the same time as an FIA-employee. Nevertheless, I never doubted the trueness of your meeting with an F1-insider, I just thought it was a coincidence rather than pre-planned or something.

    2. @garns My thanks for bringing this important issue up. I will have to be brief since we’re off topic. I too find the unequal income distribution frustrating, and while it is on the list of things Liberty Media are going to attend to, it seems to be high on the list of low priorities, so I’m not expecting much to happen until 2021. Unfortunately creditors are less patient.

    3. I do worry a bit for FI not being able to match the likes of Renault, McLaren and Haas anymore (in that sense they maxed out their oppertunities the last 3 years) @garns.

      But i wouldn’t be too worried on the other hand. FI has been completely wrung dry for most of the seasons the last decades at the start of each season (and requesting up front money from FOM, just like Sauber and even Williams).
      Remember, the teams have the most outgoing cashflow during the winter – even more so for a team like FI that has much work done by subcontractors – to design, build, crashtest the parts, build up the car, go testing etc, as well as shiping everything out to Australia, China and Bahrain up front, while the FOM money from the prize fund only starts arriving after the first race.

  5. No surprise, the cars looks underwhelming, very similar to last years. In pre-season and in Melbourne, they’ve been where they were at the end of last season. The testing times were very far. I really don’t know how sky could fabricate that Renault was having a great testing and a strong car. The Pu’s did alright nothing else.
    Hulk is obviously disappointed as he’s on a factory team and this season the team should have no excuses.

  6. Interesting that Hulkenburg is allowed to mention the PU deficit.

    It’s possible that they’re significantly off the pace of (for example) RBR because they’ve actually got too much aero and too much downforce.

    I noted that Christian Horner mentioned that they had brought one of their smaller rear wings in an attempt to negate the power differential by trimming out some of the drag (I.e. downforce) compared to Mercedes.

    Some of the speed trap differentials are giving the impression that the Renault PU is closing the power gap, but in a lot of cases, it’s because the teams running that PU have to balance straight line speed with downforce reduction so that they don’t get swamped on the straights. Renault may just have failed to get that balance right (or also may have gone too far in reducing downforce) – that will lose them a lot of time.

    Let’s see where they sit after a few races – they may be closer to RBR as may Mclaren.

  7. I don’t get it. Renault is doing great. Biggest improvement since last year. They’ve trimmed one second off Mercedes advantage, even more off Ferrari’s. They seem set for a very solid P4 in the championship. What else does he want? Surely he didn’t expect to be fighting for the title already…

    1. @alonshow They were actually further away in Melbourne than they were across last season (on average).

      1. @mashiat: Yeah, but that’s not a fair comparison, man, you have to compare track by track.

    2. Which race driver is not pushing for his team to make even bigger steps forward @alonshow! Surely you don’t think Alonso would have been dropping comments inside the team too, although he probably wanted to spare them a bit in the media since they made the change he advocated with the engine (a good choice it seems from where STR ended up this weekend)

      1. @bascb: You’re right, of course. I guess my approach makes sense from the outside, but a true F1 driver isn’t happy with anything less than P1.

  8. There was enough indication from the Renault team that the target for PU development over winter was improved reliability to cope with the reduced PU allocation for the season. However I am surprised they have not developed a qualifying mode per Ferrari and Mercedes, speculating; I wonder if this is due to concerns over reliability of their PU..

  9. I wonder if one or two teams will adopt a diffrent statergy and run there engines to a four/five engine per year plan (and take a engine penalty in one or two races) – this would give theman advantage at races they expect to be strong at. ITs a fairly aggresive approach but particularly for the lower end of the grid it may help them to a few good results instead of always languishing a few tenths behind….

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