Nico Hülkenberg crossed the line in a strong sixth place in May’s Spanish GP at Barcelona at the wheel of his R.S.17.
That followed a seventh place finish for the German in the preceding Russian GP around the Sochi street circuit – at the time it equalled the team’s previous best since it re-entered F1 at the start of 2016, achieved by Kevin Magnussen at the same circuit 12 months prior.
Then of course Hulkenberg went one better in Spain. And although fortune didn’t smile on him in the following Monaco GP (he retired while running tenth whereas British team-mate Jolyon Palmer just missed out on his first point of the season in 11th), the results of Russia and Spain will be of huge encouragement to the squad.
Notably had Hülkenberg finished in Monaco – he later reckoned eighth had been a possibility – Renault would have moved to within just a handful of points of sixth-placed Williams in the constructors’ standings…
At the time of writing the Canadian (Montreal/11 June), Azerbaijan (Baku/25 June) and Austrian (Red Bull Ring/9 July) were next up. The Montreal – Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve – and Baku tracks are both twisty in nature although each has a long straight. The Red Bull Ring, based on the original, fabled Österreichring circuit, is full of long straights and, even though split up by several tight bends, still makes for one of the fastest configurations on the calendar.
Heading to Montreal, Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell confirmed both R.S.17s would sport ‘new bits’ including aerodynamic upgrades in the North American race – one of F1’s more traditional fixtures.
He also gave more insight into the gearbox failure that potentially denied Hülkenberg a third successive points finish in Monaco and how, despite the disappointment of his retirement from the race, team personnel will be use the experience to be even better prepared for future races.
Reflecting on Monaco, Bell commented: “In terms of issues encountered, Nico’s gearbox was on the last race of a six-race cycle and we knew ahead of the Grand Prix that there was the potential for it to catch us out, and this it did. We made a balanced judgement on whether or not to change it before the race and accept a five-place penalty.
“If it had held we’d have scored a good tally of points. If we’d taken the penalty and started further back on the grid, points would have been a tall order.
“We have work to do there to make sure we don’t have the same issue again and the next gearbox cycle is an evolution to counter the issues seen from the start of the season.”