Having smartly used a safety car period to switch onto a second set of fresh tyres, Hülkenberg passed championship leader, Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel, late on to cross the line in sixth. Team-mate Sainz was also right up with Vettel at the chequered flag in ninth.
The results have put Renault right behind McLaren (also using Renault engines) in the battle for fourth in the teams’ championship arriving at Azerbaijan’s Baku street circuit.
It’s been a strong start all round to the 2018 F1 season for Renault. The opening Australian GP in Melbourne saw Hülkenberg finish in seventh and then he was sixth in the next round in Bahrain.
Sainz was tenth in Melbourne and only just outside the points, in 11th, in Bahrain after losing ground at the start.
Hülkenberg is equal fifth in the drivers’ table with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who won the title twice for Renault (2005-06). Sainz is 12th but another good result in Azerbaijan could easily see him challenging the top ten.
Reflecting on the Chinese GP in Shanghai, Team Principal Cyril Abitboul said: “Today was obviously a good day for the team which shows we are gaining in maturity.
“We had decent starting positions with both cars in the top ten, but that actually put us in a difficult position with our race strategy as we knew we would have to do two stops when the competitors around us were in a position to complete the race with one.
“But thanks to a strong first lap and many very clean overtaking moves from our drivers we made that work. The safety car helped slightly but I don’t think it would have changed much.
“The team is building and getting stronger across the board. Our pace was encouraging, as was the win of Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), showing the Renault power unit is getting there and is a race-win capable engine.”
Looking ahead, Azerbaijan’s GP will mark the culmination of a gruelling opening four ‘fly-away’ races for the Renault Sport Formula One Team. From its bases in Enstone, UK and Viry Chȃtillon, France its personnel and equipment will have covered a round trip of close to 30,000 miles.
But there’s little respite with the first GP of the so-called ‘European season’ just around the corner – the Spanish GP in Barcelona on 13 May and then the world famous Monaco GP a fortnight later (27 May).