Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Yas Marina, 2019

Team mate battles 2019: The final score – Ricciardo vs Hulkenberg

2019 F1 season review

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Nico Hulkenberg’s Formula 1 career appears to be over. Having entered the sport with Williams in 2010, and raced in almost every season since, Renault has shown him the door at the end of a three-year stint at the team.

He’s had a succession of different team mates at the time. The latest, Daniel Ricciardo, conclusively held the upper hand this year, though Hulkenberg’s season was not without highlights.

Moving from the downforce-smothered Red Bull to an altogether trickier and less forgiving Renault, Ricciardo adapted to his new car and surroundings quickly. He quickly established the upper hand over Hulkenberg on Saturdays, out-qualifying his team mate 14-7.

But it’s easy to overstate the extent of Ricciardo’s advantage in the head to head qualifying battle. Hulkenberg was seldom far behind. The pair were separated by an average of only seven hundredths of a second, one of the smallest margins on the grid.

Hulkenberg’s share of the team’s points did not fall that far short of his team mate’s, though when both saw the chequered flag Ricciardo was usually ahead. And the points gap probably would have been even higher if the newcomer hadn’t suffered three more mechanical retirements than Hulkenberg.

The RS19’s performance fluctuated from track to track – though not to Haas extremes. A factor which set Renault’s two drivers apart was Ricciardo’s ability to capitalise when the car had the potential to do well. His performance at Circuit of the Americas exemplified this: Ricciardo finished ‘best of the rest’, resisting Lando Norris under tremendous pressure – while Hulkenberg took ninth.

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Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Monza, 2019
Ricciardo scored Renault’s best result
The nadir for Hulkenberg came at his home race where he squandered a clear podium chance, skidding into the barriers in the rain. Three races later the team’s best result of the season came at Monza where Ricciardo, having slipped behind his team mate at the start, passed Hulkenberg to lead a four-five for the team.

How far was Hulkenberg’s performance a factor in Renault’s decision to drop him? He suggested the team had other reasons for wanting to bring Esteban Ocon in – after all, the team had tried to sign Mercedes’ junior driver 12 months earlier.

But there’s no avoiding the fact Ricciardo solidly had the upper hand, and did so in his first season in an unfamiliar car and team. Renault will surely take this as a sign that there’s more to come from the package when this combination has fully gelled.

Despite often find each other close by on-track, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg never came into contact with one another over the course of the season, a testament to their experience and respect for each other. Ocon’s track record in this regard is less than stellar, and Ricciardo had a costly run-in with Max Verstappen last year, so Renault may have to keep a firm eye on their new pairing to ensure points are not squandered in 2020, especially after slipping a place in the constructors’ championship this year.

Daniel Ricciardo vs Nico Hulkenberg: Key stats

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Daniel Ricciardo vs Nico Hulkenberg: Who finished ahead at each round

AUSBAHCHIAZESPAMONCANFRAAUSGREGERHUNBELITASINRUSJAPMEXUNIBRAABU
Daniel RicciardoQ
R
Nico HulkenbergQ
R

Daniel Ricciardo vs Nico Hulkenberg: Qualifying gap

Times based on the last qualifying round at each race weekend in which both drivers set a time. Negative indicates Daniel Ricciardo was faster, positive means Nico Hulkenberg was faster

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Author information

Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...
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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40 comments on “Team mate battles 2019: The final score – Ricciardo vs Hulkenberg”

  1. Although I think Ricciardo has overall quite comfortably beaten Hulkenberg, I think Ricciardo’s worst moments of the season were probably worse than Hulkenberg’s. Baku was one of the most stupid and clumsy mistakes by any driver this year. The lunge on Kvyat in the first place was a bit optimistic and rand them both off track, then reversing into him without checking behind was really poor indeed.

    Then the end of France he got 2 penalties in the space of 15 seconds for going off track and gaining an advantage. I believe he also got 4 penalty points. Is this the most in a single race by any driver this year?

    I respect the other things Ricciardo has done and int he 2nd half of the season he overall has looked great. But with Australia included too, the start of his season really was pretty poor. I actually would have rated Hulkenberg and Ricciardo in the bottom 15 drivers at that stage of the season. And with Hulkenberg still overall doing worse than him if I’m honest reflects that hulkenberg isn’t that good either.

    I think Ricciardo just took time to get used to this car and maybe now realises it doesn’t have the same grip as the red Bull and his dive bombs can’t be as successful. He knocked Hulkenberg in Bahrain and Magnussen in Brazil. If he is staying in this team, I still think he needs to take a few less risks than he overall. It is worth taking some but i think many have cost him a lot of points.

    1. @thegianthogweed I think earlier incidents like Baku can be put down to Ricciardo still adapting to life in the midfield, a mixture of over-ambition and frustration, lacking that Red Bull performance. Like you say, he improved over the season.

      1. I think the attempted pass was acceptable to not work out one in a while, but to not look when you reverse out on track was just ridiculous… If he didn’t see Kvyat rigth behind him, what would have happened if there were a load more cars on track. I think this is more serious than it seems and isn’t really related to him being in a new car.

        But yes, it was a one off mistake and we can move on from it. I just don’t think he can have an excuse for it of any sort.

    2. @thegianthogweed, with regards to your question about Ricciardo and the penalty points he got in France, I think that Ricciardo was given three points, not four, in France – two for rejoining the track unsafely when passing Norris, and then another point when cutting the track boundaries to pass Raikkonen. https://www.racefans.net/2019-f1-season/2019-f1-statistics/2019-f1-penalties-index/

      Now, in terms of other drivers getting the same number of points, Giovinazzi did end up earning three points in Monaco, although that was from both qualifying and the race itself (one point for impeding Hulkenberg during qualifying, and then two points for colliding with Kubica during the race).

      The other driver would be Vettel, who was given three points and a drive through penalty for unsafely rejoining the track and colliding with Stroll at the Italian GP.

      1. yea, that is correct then. I just somehow remembered ricciardo possibly getting 4 as there were two similar incidents that i knew he did recieve at least a penalty for. If 3 is the number he got, then yes, i remembe rother drivers getting that many.

    3. Iirc Ricciardo said he couldn’t see Kvyatt and simply didn’t know he was still there. An F1 driver can’t just lean out of the cockpit and look over his shoulder.

      1. @krommenaas

        mirrors….. if you can’t see a car directly behind you parked longways (so not even directly in line which makes it yet more easy to see), then how can he have seen to reverse onto the track when things in his mirror will have been even smaller?

        This is an incredibly basic thing. His mirrors will have had Kvyat clearly visible. It will have just been a rush to get back on track and he did not pay attention. That is my point. It was very poor judgement.

        1. You’re right, I remembered it wrong. I looked it up; he said a sense of urgency made him panic and forget to look before reversing; he just hadn’t considered the possibility that Kvyatt might be there.

    4. Lol this comment is the dumbest thing I have seen this year. Backing up into his blind spot is not a dumb mistake, he tried to pass and braked late he probably didn’t even expect kyvat to be were he was and was just focusing on the racetrack behind him. Vettel has done like 4x more dumber things this year and so much more often. This was Ricciardo’s only real mistake this year

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        9th December 2019, 9:06

        Your image indicated you are a ricciardo fan… Kvyat was parked longways behind him. You cannot call it his blind spot when his left mirror will have had the front of Kvyats car side on clearly visible. Seriously, your comment is the one that looks a bit silly. you need to look back at what happened.

        And you saying it his only real mistake makes it seem like you have skipped most of my comment. He drove off track and damaged his car in australia, crashed in Baku, got 2 penalties in france and then had the more recent crash with magnussen which he was also peanalised for I am only repeating myself because you say baku was his only real mistake. it wasn’t. He has overall been excellent in the 2nd half of the season, but the first half was poor and he made a large amount of mistakes.

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        9th December 2019, 9:19

        @carlosmedrano

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eE9bofwhhs&t=227s

        2:58

        If you take a look here, it is just ridiculous anybody saying that Kvyat will have been in his blind spot. It clearly indicates he panicked and did not look. look at just how much of the front of Kvyat’s car was on his left. If Kvyat’s car wasn’t there, he would have revered out onto the track and the Kimi may have had to take avoiding action. He obviously didn’t bother to look in his right either as Kimi was right behind them both and Ricciardo won’t have had enough time to back out before Kimi arrived.

        It was clear he didn’t look in either of his mirrors rather than have a blind spot.

        As @krommenaas said when it was looked up, he had “a sense of urgency made him panic and forget to look before reversing”

  2. Overall Ricciardo was the better driver. Interestingly, Ricciardo’s advantage seemed larger on Saturdays than on Sundays. Hülkenberg could have outscored Ricciardo, who had a poor start to the season, had he capitalized on his wet-weather skills in Germany. After that missed opportunity the team got fed up with him, much like they did with Trulli 15 years ago. In the final part of the season Hülkenberg’s performances nosedived.
    Still I think Renault had the best driver line-up of the midfield teams. Based on last year we know Hülkenberg is at least as good as Sainz, who really had a great season this year, and Ricciardo is an even better driver, but they didn’t really have the car to show it.

    1. You’ve got to also remember Singapore – which Dan was convincingly quicker than Hulk all weekend until he got DQ’d in qual, and Suzuka where he finished strongly, but again got DQ’d.

      1. Not to mention dumb strategy decisions which would have made the gap even bigger such as Monaco when Ricciardo was 5th and ended up just in the points or opportunities like Spa when he basically ran one tire the entire race.

  3. Actually getting beaten by the supplied team as a manufacturer team, is a very rare and bad looking feat at modern F1.
    Especially while having quite good, reliable drivers who are more experienced than the other team’s drivers.

    1. Actually getting beaten by the supplied team as a manufacturer team, is a very rare and bad looking feat at modern F1.

      Luckily in the ‘ol days’ of 2010-2012 this wasn’t an issue :P

      1. Super Aguri -almost- beat Honda in 2007. (6 for Honda, 4 for Super Aguri)

        1. @lamalas

          In 2009, Brawn beat McLaren. McLaren was the only Mercedes works team on the grid with Brawn and Force India as customers

  4. Do you think Ricciardo is still on the top team’s short list after this? Could he still team up with Leclerc or Verstappen at Ferrari or Mercedes when Vettel and Hamilton retire?

    1. I think Ricciardo is the red line where if a driver is below that line he’s not good enough for the top three teams and if is at the line or above it Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull can trust them
      Bottas, Albon, Vettel below the line
      Leclerc, Max, Ham above the line or at the line

      1. Joerge, agree (and I’d put Rosberg on the line along with Ricciardo). But those last three are all well above the line.

  5. Although Ricciardo was a bit better, it’s worth mentioning that the team favored him a lot more throughout the season

    1. After all that money they signed to him, they had better do it!

      1. José Lopes da Silva
        9th December 2019, 9:19

        Drivers that are getting better results are always being favoured by their teams. This thinking is now an established mantra.

  6. Ric is better than Seb and Bottas so yeah l can’t see why not for 21

  7. I think the Renault was probably worse than it showed this season. I feel like for large parts of the year the Toro Rosso and Racing Point were quicker cars, but this was the best driver lineup in the midfield, as shown by how Hulk beat Sainz relatively comfortably last year and then Sainz was easily the best of the midfield this year. And then Ricciardo we know is almost as good as Verstappen on his day and beat Hulk relatively comfortably too. I wonder where they would have finished without them.
    Sad as I am to see Hulk go, I am interested to see how good Ocon actually is, Perez imo has struggled since the 2017 regulation switch so I don’t think we really have a representative idea of Ocon’s pace.

    1. @hugh11, I am curious as to why you feel that Perez had struggled since the change in regulations since 2017. In 2017 itself, he was the most frequent points scoring driver in the midfield pack (and better than even some of the drivers ahead of him in the WDC), whilst in 2018 he was only narrowly beaten by Hulkenberg to be the leading points scorer in the midfield pack, despite the troubles that Force India were going through that season.

      As Keith also noted in his review of this season, Perez was also a frequent points finisher this season as well – in terms of points finishes, he has the second highest number of points finishes of any driver in the midfield pack, so he certainly was a consistent points finisher, and he was one of the higher scoring drivers in the midfield pack too. That doesn’t sound like the record of an individual who is struggling with the cars of the current rule package, so I am curious as you why you think he is struggling.

      1. Well, I guess the pattern is pretty after these years. When tyres managment matters, Perez is there, if not, he is too slow.

        Pirelli tyres this year may help him to look better.

      2. I probably worded it wrong saying he struggled. I more mean compared to 2015-16 in particular, where he was definitely the class of the midfield, since 2017 he’s sort of just been a decent, consistent midfield driver while never making you look and think ‘wow that guy is really good’ like he did multiple times in the previous years. He’s not been bad, just not at the level he was probably because the previous regulations really favoured his driving style with the high tyre management etc.

        1. @hugh11, I don’t know if that is necessarily a reflection of just Perez though, or a wider reflection on the way in which the midfield pack as a whole has changed since then.

          After all, back in 2015-16, McLaren were going through the more painful part of their relationship with Honda, not to mention experiencing a wider range of internal management and technical issues, Sauber was in significant financial trouble due to the debts that they’d picked up in scrambling to be on the grid in 2010 and Renault had only just committed to the idea of a works team in 2016, though the 2016 was badly underdeveloped due to the financial problems Lotus had in 2015.

          Since then, McLaren has reformed and begun attracting more investment – and, whilst Zak does sometimes get flack, he has helped force through an overhaul of McLaren’s technical department that was probably about a decade overdue and put skilled people in charge who are now starting to make a significant difference.

          Meanwhile, although Renault’s management has come under criticism, the advantages that come with being a works team – especially the increased financial and technical resources they have – have begun to make their mark, even if perhaps not being utilised as efficiently as at other teams (including Force India/Racing Point). Sauber is now on a more stable financial footing and has moved towards an expanded technical partnership with Ferrari too.

          You also have Toro Rosso, where Red Bull have decided, based on the Haas model, to aggressively expand the component sharing between the works team and Toro Rosso to a far greater degree than they were in 2015-16, where they’d scaled that back after criticisms they were bending or possibly even breaking the customer car rules.

          With engine convergence also being a factor, I think that it’s more of a reflection of a narrowing in performance in the midfield pack that makes it harder for any one particular driver to stand out to an extreme.

          At the same time, you also have a more marked difference in performance between the midfield pack and the big three teams – so, even if a midfield driver does put in a decent performance, it’s still rarely going to net them more than 7th place, and usually with a large gap to the drivers in front.

  8. When looking at the race results, if should at least be noted how often the driver was on the better/worse strategy. As I recall, Renault rarely used the same strategy for both drivers and as only one is likely to be optimal, I don’t think we can just look at the final numbers without making some kind of adjustment.

  9. Daniel and Hulk did have contact with each other, in the Bahrain GP shortly before both cars retired. A small one but still… The article said they never did during the season, so I wanted to make this small correction
    https://www.formula1.com/en/video/2019/3/BAHRAIN_GP__Renault_team_mates_touch_in_Turn_1_battle.html

  10. Out of the two times ricciardo crashed with max one was 100% on max and the other was 70% on max. Even Niki lauda said max was mostly responsible for the baku crash with ricciardo. Ricciardo is a clean driver

  11. Last year there was uproar when Ocon was unable to find a seat in a sport in which Stroll and others could.

    This year, no such uproar for Hulkenberg. Slightly surprised. He’s obviously a decent driver and deserves a place on the grid if talent is the barometer.

    1. Age has to do with it as well. Hulkenberg has had ten years in the sport and although competent, has not had podiums when given the opportunity. He is a known quantity not expected to get any better/challenge for a WDC. Ocon might have a title in him and at the very least a stellar #2. You can also tell that Team boss Cyril was sick of Hulkenberg from Drive to Survive series. Also, Hulk is being replaced by Ocon so it damps the uproar more as it is quelling another injustice. Finally, no surprise that a French works team wants a French driver.

  12. I feel like Hulkenberg consistently had a worse race strategy than Ricciardo this season.
    Makes all this comparison kinda useless.

    1. They’ve both had bone-headed strategies from Renault. Though some of the strategies still required Ricciardo to make it work whereas I found Hulk never did this as consistently e.g. Suzuka in overtaking all the midfield cars early, maintaining his tires until the relevant pitstop to be on the fresher tires at the end.

  13. Hulkenberg got pretty solidly beaten by Ricciardo who was in his first year at the team.

    That Hulkenberg compared so well when compared to Stroll at Racing Point speaks more to the unharnessed potential of that car last year rather than to Hulkenberg being an excellent driver.

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