Nico Hülkenberg has responded to rumours that he was able to “slack” with Jolyon Palmer as his Renault Sport Formula 1 Team colleague and has said that the arrival of Carlos Sainz Jr. has made no difference to the amount of effort he has put in.
Hülkenberg outperformed Palmer in the majority of race weekends the two competed in in 2017, with the latter suffering the ignominy of being out-qualified by the German in every round up to the United States Grand Prix – Sainz Jr.’s first race with Renault.
Additionally, Palmer’s sixth place at the chaotic Singapore Grand Prix proved to be his only points scoring finish of the 2017 season and just the second of his Formula 1 career. Hülkenberg had accumulated 34 points by that stage of the season – his first with the Enstone team.
Sainz Jr. has proved to be a bigger threat to Hülkenberg following his loan to Renault from the Red Bull driver programme as part of the deal that saw the McLaren F1 Team and Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda switch power unit suppliers. The Spaniard out-qualified Hülkenberg on his Renault début in the United States and matched his race pace in the following three rounds.
The pair helped Renault edge Toro Rosso out of sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
However, Hülkenberg quelled the rumours of him holding back with Palmer as his team-mate.
“I think it would be unprofessional if I would have had some slack at the beginning of the season because I was just safe,” he said, speaking to Motorsport.com.
“I don’t think if I take the first half of the season, and any of my qualifying laps, that I would have found significantly more time if I would have had another teammate closer to me.
“I just don’t believe it. I am convinced it is not like that.”
Hülkenberg confident of solid partnership with Sainz Jr.
As Renault look to break into the top five of the Constructors’ Championship for the first time as a reformed works team with the new R.S.18, Hülkenberg believes that both he and Sainz Jr. have more than enough to aid the French marque in their targets.
“He is pushing and I am still pushing, we are pushing each other to the benefit of the team,” he added. “He is giving good feedback to the team as well.
“Two guys, instead of one, pushing everything forward is really important for a team.”