After the latest two races, in Belgium and Italy, Renault lies eighth in the standings on 34 points with Williams, currently in fifth, on 55.
That’s despite a non-score in the most recent GP, at Monza in Italy, where Nico Hülkenberg was out of the points and team-mate Jolyon Palmer retired.
That allowed Williams to get away again but the general consensus in the F1 pit lane now is that Renault’s R.S.17 – which took a step forward in performance in July’s British GP – is now the fourth best car on the grid behind those of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Ahead even of Force India which looks to be on course for a safe fourth in the table…
If true that is a remarkable achievement by Renault Sport which only returned to F1 at the start of 2016. Indeed the weekend before Monza, Hülkenberg finished a convincing sixth outright in the Belgian GP around the wonderful Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
It was the third time in nine races that the German had finished in that position – the best since Renault Sport’s return last year. The result enabled Renault to close to within just 11 points of Williams with Toro Rosso and Haas in between them. And it would surely have been less had a gearbox problem not prevented Palmer from taking part in qualifying’s final ‘Q3’ session…
Hülkenberg’s 13th place at Monza (for once he found the R.S.17’s balance not quite to his liking) and retirement for Palmer understandably therefore caused frustration for the team.
But the signs are it has what it takes to close in on those ahead in the remaining seven GPs which start with the floodlit night race around the streets of Singapore’s Marina Bay circuit this coming Sunday (17 Sept). A fortnight later comes the Malaysia (1 Oct) followed by the Japanese GP at the mighty Suzuka circuit (9 Oct).
Renault Sport F1 Team Managing Director Cyril Arbiteboul reflected: “There are two positives to take away: among our closest rivals in the Constructors Championship, only Williams scored points.
“Daniel Ricciardo’s spectacular drive through the field (in a Renault-powered Red Bull) to fourth place must be highlighted. It’s the best finish for a Renault engine at Monza since the beginning of the V6 turbo hybrid era. Monza is a reference point and our progress year on year is promising. This result could have been even better if he was positioned further up on the starting grid.
“This shows that more than ever before, we have to continue to work hard on reliability both with the engine and the chassis. We hope that the upcoming races will play more to our strengths.”