Nico Hülkenberg believes that the Renault F1 Team must maintain its rate of development throughout the season if it is to break away from Formula 1‘s pulsating midfield battle.
2019 marks Renault’s fourth season back as a manufacturer squad, a project that has improved year-on-year from 2016 – when the French marque finished a lacklustre ninth in the Constructors’ Championship.
2017 and ’18 brought big performance increases, with Renault finishing the last campaign in fourth place – albeit nearly 300 points adrift of third-placed team Red Bull Racing.
A revamp of the team’s UK base at Enstone was also granted in the hope of securing a first top three championship finish in 12 years and Renault rebuilt its power unit, having “underestimated” the development potential of the regulations introduced for 2014.
Hülkenberg was the only points finisher for Renault in Australia just over a week ago with a hard-fought seventh place, as team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was forced into ending his Renault debut on lap 28 of the 58-lap race following damage from an incident at the race start.
“On a whole we’re happy to take home a handful of points from the first race,” said Hülkenberg.
“There’s a lot more work we can do to improve.
“We know that, and we have to keep the developments coming if we’re to edge away from the midfield group.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix, the second race of the 2019 season, Hülkenberg placed an importance on flexibility regarding car set-up.
The Free Practice 1 and 3 sessions take place in the day, in contrast to the remaining sessions that are conducted at night – and give more representative running data.
Excessive heat can become an issue in the natural-lit sessions, so tyre suppliers Pirelli Motorsport has countered this by bringing the hardest possible combination to the Bahrain International Circuit – the C1, C2 and C3-spec tyres.
“It was nice to take some rest between leaving Australia and heading to Bahrain,” Hülkenberg added.
“It is very hot, even though we qualify and race at night when it’s significantly cooler – the sun starts low for the race and then we drive into the darkness.
“Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 3 are slightly trickier and not run under representative conditions.
“Track temperature swings around over the weekend, so it’s important to keep on top of set-up changes.”