Nico Hulkenberg has always possessed an ability to deliver impressive speed over one lap. His recent qualifying statistics not only demonstrate a continued adeptness at maximising a Saturday afternoon, but they also make a case for rating Hulkenberg as one of Formula 1’s strongest qualifiers.
Despite 2018’s front running seats being locked down by their incumbents, it appears that a midfield shuffle is about to be triggered by Carlos Sainz Jr. Bizarrely, it would seem that power unit politics is the factor that is set to fuel a move for Sainz from Toro Rosso to Renault for 2018.
It is a switch which makes perfect sense, as it benefits all five parties that are either directly or indirectly involved; Red Bull, Renault, Toro Rosso, the beleaguered McLaren and – most poignantly – Sainz himself.
The RS17 is an important car for Renault. After limping through 2016, clearly healing the wounds suffered by the financially beleaguered Enstone outfit throughout 2015, this season marks the first true signpost of their rank among F1’s other manufacturers.
Curiously, Renault Sport President Jerome Stoll offered a specific target for the season during the launch of the new car in London on Tuesday. “Since we have for the first time a car that has been developed by us, we expect to be fifth in the championship,” he stated.
Optimistic or pessimistic?
I’d say it’s a very clever approach to a very important season…
Manufacturer backing is like a silver bullet to an F1 outfit. The injection of funds and expertise will usually see an ‘on par’ team transformed into a winning machine.
Renault’s takeover of Lotus and the Enstone team at the end of 2015 was, admittedly, always going to be a long-term investment rather than a quick win, given the financial constraints that had crippled the team. As such, 2016 was a difficult campaign, where points finishes were seldom possible.
However, I feel like I’ve been watching a midfield team rather than recovering manufacturer. Frederic Vasseur’s decision to leave the team has only cemented my concerns for Renault’s prospects.
Forget Donald Trump’s big news, the F1 driver market cauldron has been stirred again today, with Jolyon Palmer becoming the latest to throw his cap on a 2017 seat. The Briton will remain at Renault, partnering Nico Hulkenberg at the French marque.
It’s a fascinating development. Palmer had been widely tipped for the Enstone exit door in recent weeks, with the team supposedly favouring Kevin Magnussen for the seat. However, the Dane now seems bound for Haas, therefore allowing Palmer a route back into the frame.
With the European season set to begin in earnest with this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, teams will look to deliver their first major update package of the 2016 season. Force India have hinted that their car could look very different when it takes to the track in Barcelona, as the team are set to introduce significant changes to the VJM09, which has – up until now – proved a touch underwhelming.
The plot thickened on day three in Barcelona as surprising names appeared at the top of the timesheet. Nico Hulkenberg put Force India on top with an impressive time on the supersoft tyre just three tenths short of Vettel’s ultrasoft benchmark posted yesterday. Meanwhile, Haas cemented what has been a very positive start to life in the sport by finishing the day second.
Here are five things we learnt from today’s running…