The R.S.18 (launched 20 Feb – see separate story) is an evolution of R.S.17 model which Hülkenberg steered to four sixth-place finishes en route to tenth in last year’s drivers’ standings. Come the end of the season the car was generally acknowledged to be the fourth quickest on the grid behind those of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull…
Ahead of R.S.18’s track debut at Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the 30-year-old German said: “When I have visited Enstone and seen everything going on with the development of the R.S.18 I’m very enthused about the season ahead.
“Add that to the news from Viry-Chȃtillon about the development of the power unit and everything looks and sounds good; it’s all positive and there are exciting times ahead. I’m feeling positive and optimistic in myself.
“We’re in a good position. For this year we want to build on the good platform of last season. 2017 was about bedding in; now I want to get ready to go. I get a good feeling, we have put the work in over the winter and hard work usually pays off. I’m eager to get out there. Put me in the car.”
Sainz joined the team for the final four races of 2017 – his seventh place on his debut with Renault undoubtedly helped the team to later achieve sixth in the final constructors’ standings.
The 23-year-old Spaniard commented: “The general approach is to work harder every day to continue on a positive trend. For sure the main target is to take a step forward; both me as a driver and the whole team.
“It’s difficult to predict how big that step will be. However, I’m confident as I have been pushing hard during the winter and I know everyone at the factory is giving their very best. I´m convinced this is going to be an exciting season.”
Following next week’s debut runs of the R.S.18, the team will stay put at Barcelona for F1’s second pre-season test from 6-9 March. Present for the first will be 22-year-old British-Korean Jack Aitken – named during the R.S.18 launch as the Renault team’s third/reserve driver.
Aitken, racing in FIA Formula 2 this year with Renault Sport Academy backing, enthused: “It feels amazing to take up the third/reserve driver role. It hasn’t quite processed yet, but I’m going to step up my involvement with the team quite a lot.
“Over the first Barcelona test, it will start to feel real and sink in a little bit more. The role gives me an opportunity to be closer to Nico and Carlos and learn from them, as well as observing the race team, the engineers and how everything operates.”