The team, still only in its second year back in the sport following a five year break, currently sits seventh in the standings following the two most recent GPs in Mexico and Brazil.
While a top six is very much on the cards – it is only four points behind sixth-placed Toro Rosso – it will need one of its drivers, Nico Hülkenberg or Carlos Sainz, to win the race and for the other to also finish inside the top five if it is to have any hope of stealing fifth away from Williams.
Williams is on 82 points; Renault 49. That’s a difference of 34 with a maximum of 50 on offer from the Abu Dhabi finale. A first and a fifth would score a team 35 points, but it’s a massive ask…
The Mexican race was a case of what might have been for Hülkenberg and Sainz in their R.S.17s. Both qualified inside the top ten and with Champion elect Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo both hitting early problems there was an opportunity for a sizeable points haul.
Indeed Hülkenberg ran as high as fourth only to retire with an energy recovery system (ERS) problem. Sainz was up to seventh on lap one but, after a spin, he was also out with a steering-related issue.
Again both cars qualified inside the top ten at Interlagos for the Brazilian GP. Hülkenberg was then able to manage a point for tenth in the race, but Sainz was out of luck in 11th.
RSR Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul later emphasised that improved reliability in Brazil came at the expense of performance. Looking ahead to Abu Dhabi he also conceded that sixth place in the constructors’ table was a more realistic target.
He commented: “This race is almost a championship in itself as we are in a tight battle with Toro Rosso and Haas, and everything is still to play for. Either one of us could finish between sixth and eighth position so we are being very careful with our preparations. We will have to combine an approach that is at the same time attacking, as we need five points more than Toro Rosso to get sixth, but also conservative as we are just two points ahead of Haas.”
Germany’s Hülkenberg said: “I’m really relishing the challenge. The track should suit us better than Interlagos. It’s the season finale, there’s plenty at stake and that makes me very excited.”
And added Spaniard Sainz: “I left Brazil with a positive mindset as I’m starting to feel at home in the car and we head to Abu Dhabi with confidence and an aim for points. It’s going to be a tight fight in the championship for sixth, but we are ready for the challenge.”