Hülkenberg and team-mate Jolyon Palmer qualified their R.S.17s seventh and tenth fastest for the race. Significantly that’s the first time since the manufacturer returned to F1 at the start of 2016 that both its cars have made it through to the final ‘Q3’ phase of qualifying…
It also came after Hülkenberg had qualified seventh for the preceding GP in China.
In Bahrain Hülkenberg maintained his position during the race before eventually dropping two places and finishing ninth. Palmer took 13th – his race not helped by contact with the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kyvat which damaged his R.S.17.
At the time of writing – just prior to the Russian GP (30 April) Hülkenberg’s result had put Renault eighth in the F1 Constructors’ standings with two points – 14 behind Williams in fifth, the position it has said it wants to achieve by season’s end.
The team then stayed on in Bahrain to allow Hülkenberg to test upgrades on the R.S.17. These included a ‘less aggressive’ front wing – designed to add aero performance while, crucially, improving the car’s behaviour during a full race distance.
Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell explained: “The R.S.17 has a somewhat nervous corner entry, followed by mid-turn understeer, followed by a nervous exit making finding traction a challenge. If we can address these areas, our drivers will have a very effective race car at their disposal. We believe the problems are aero related, so we’re primarily looking for the solution there. Once we have the entry-phase of the corner sorted, the rest should follow more easily.
“The big positive is that the car has the basic pace to be able to be qualified well. Our current issue is extracting that pace in a race scenario. If you have the pace the key is maintaining it; it’s easier to translate qualifying pace to race pace than to find basic performance.”
Meanwhile after his top ten result in Bahrain, German Hülkenberg said: “It’s good to have the first points of the season on the board and I think I had a good race given the pace of the car; I really wrestled with it a lot and two points were the best we could do on the strategy we ran. We are a lot better in qualifying, but over the 57 laps of the race we exposed some of the areas where we need to improve.
Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, added: “In Bahrain we scored our first points with another strong race from Nico. We may have lost one position relative to the optimum strategy, but the most important aspect for us is to understand why there is such a difference between our Saturday qualifying performance and our Sunday race pace.”