Renault has had every intention of moving past their current position in the midfield, but does the yellow-and-black team have what it takes?
The midfield is always a contentious place to be. Perhaps even more so than the front of the pack, one is never safe when contending with the myriad of forces around them. But hell, or high water be damned, that won’t stop Renault. The recently returned team owner is determined to give Red Bull a run for its money. The only question is: are they capable?
— Renault Sport F1 (@RenaultSportF1) July 1, 2017
The answer? Yes and no. Renault has shown itself as a capable team, but it’s still lacking the sheer advantage of resources that Red Bull frequently enjoys. Despite the technical crew’s ‘round-the-clock’ work on their 2017 challenger, they still continue to be outpaced by the quick development turnaround employed by Red Bull.
There is also the small matter of the two teams’ differing driver performances, Red Bull has enjoyed several podiums – including a win by Daniel Ricciardo in the 2017 stint at Baku – and incredible, albeit technically-hindered, efforts by the Flying Dutchman Max Verstappen. The same however, cannot be said about Renault’s fortunes. The French-based team has earned all 18 of their points in 2017 thanks to the efforts of Nico Hulkenberg – while his teammate, Jolyon Palmer, sits in the garage with zero points to his name.
In his defence, Palmer has had some very bad luck with technical issues pertaining to his car, but to reach the midpoint of a season without a single point to one’s name does not bode well. No driver is ever “safe” in the world of F1, and one that has zero points to his name is even less so.
Yet, what can be said for the opinions of Renault’s top driver, Nico Hulkenberg? Well, despite the improvements his team has made, it suffices to say that he sees their Red Bull’s development rate as the current target:
“Red Bull are one of the top teams – their rate of development has been quite impressive. From the start of the season to now they made big steps forward.
We did too, but obviously not at the same magnitude. We’re not on that level yet.
It’s little things, they’re not transforming the car or putting 20 points of downforce on.” – Nico Hulkenberg
— Renault Sport F1 (@RenaultSportF1) June 28, 2017
Those “little things” may very well be the tool that Red Bull utilize to increase the gap between themselves and the midfield to even greater numbers. While Renault have shown they are willing to do all it takes to prevent that, something tells us they’ve more issues to sort out on their end than a mere power deficit.