Nico Hülkenberg: “We still can’t be sure where we stand relative to the opposition”

Nico Hulkenberg finished fourth fastest on Thursday
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Nico Hülkenberg felt his Renault Sport Formula One Team made progress with the development of their R.S.18 during the penultimate day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Thursday, but it is still difficult to judge just where they are compared to their rivals.

The German completed seventy-nine laps of the Spanish track on Thursday morning, with his best lap of 1:18.675s enough to see him end the day with the fourth fastest time overall, 1.493 seconds down on pacesetter Sebastian Vettel.

Hülkenberg has one more afternoon in the car before the start of the season in Australia, but he feels the pre-season programme has been extremely productive so far, with very few issues affecting their running.

“We’ve made progress today, but we still can’t be sure where we stand relative to the opposition; that’s something we’ll only know for sure in Australia,” said Hülkenberg.

“The R.S.18 is certainly a solid foundation with the possibility to extract good performance with developments through the season. This week is productive in terms of running through the test programme without any big problems, which is really positive.”

Team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. hopes Fridays final day of pre-season testing is as productive as it was on the penultimate day, particularly as they continue to learn more and more about the strengths of the R.S.18. The Spaniard ended fifth fastest on Thursday, adding sixty-nine more laps to Renault’s lap count in the afternoon.

“We had another strong afternoon of running and a good day in general where we were able to complete our full run plan,” said Sainz. “We can be happy with that and we even got in some pit stop practice at the end.

“We’ve been focussing on performance a bit more and we are learning all the time. We need to analyse where we are tonight and come back tomorrow to have an even better day.”