Renault Sport may still be rebuilding its capabilities in Formula 1, its sights set on becoming a top team by 2020. But it already has one of the sport’s most formidable driver line-ups in Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz.
SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT SPORT:
“It’s a very competent line-up, very quick drivers with lots of experience, fantastic charisma, lots of energy, lots of drive. In my opinion, it’s the best line-up that the Enstone team has ever had.”
However, it’s a line-up the team may not be able to hold onto.
Hülkenberg is understood to be in the second of a two-year deal, with the squad reportedly already in talks to lock the German in for 2019 and beyond. The 30-year-old proving to be a strong team leader, and solid point scorer, despite DNFs at the last two races in Azerbaijan and Spain.
SOUNDBITE (English) NICO HÜLKENBERG,
F1 DRIVER, RENAULT:
“Obviously I’ve been with the team now since more than a year. And since race one, and since day one, we’ve been working together. And I’ve given them the feedback of what we need, what the weak areas are - and that’s obviously the more important subject because that’s the things we need to tackle and improve.”
While Sainz is on loan from Red Bull, and could be recalled to the brand’s top team should Daniel Ricciardo defect…
… a nightmare scenario for Renault, given Sainz is the perfect teammate for Hülkenberg – and heavily invested in the car’s development.
SOUNDBITE (English) CARLOS SAINZ,
F1 DRIVER, RENAULT:
“I got a lot of input on this year’s car, pretty much everything that I’ve asked for - about the fine-tuning detail from the steering wheel, setup directions, this year’s car will have all those ideas from me.”
Despite having little control over Sainz’s 2019 plans, though, Renault has still opened talks with the Spaniard for a long-term deal. His performance very much on an upward trajectory.
Up to and including Spain, Hülkenberg rules the roost having outqualified Sainz 4-1 and scored three more points. The Spaniard, though, outraced him 3-0, when they could be compared.
And it’s that closely matched performance the French manufacturer wants to hang on to. If Renault can do that, it’s got a strong chance of securing its first world championship as a constructor since 2006.