There is a lot of traction building behind the Renault team ahead of the 2017 season with expectations from the outside very high. Nico Hulkenberg has rained on the parade though, and dragged expectations back into reality.
Hulkenberg’s move from Force India to Renault may be a sidestep or a trip down the order, but the German driver has long wanted a works team drive, and his recent comments clearly suggest that real success is a long-term objective.
— Renault Sport F1 (@RenaultSportF1) January 4, 2017
I think next year is still a build-up year. You have to be realistic and this year they come from a pretty difficult year. Obviously when they bought the team last year they were in a very tricky situation, especially at the beginning of the season but didn’t really do much in terms of development with this car.
I hope next year is a little bit better already, but don’t expect to be in the top six straight away, or even top 10 probably. It’s going to be challenging. These things take long to build the infrastructure back up and get good people on board and develop the car.”
– Nico Hulkenberg
It’s fair to say that Hulkenberg was a bit miffed by the timing of Rosberg’s retirement. If he hadn’t already committed to the Renault project, he would have surely been one of the top candidates for the spot alongside Lewis Hamilton.
Hulkenberg laughs at his own bad luck these days though, if he didn’t, he’d probably erupt into a heap of misery. Renault have as good a chance as any to nail the interpretation of the 2017 regulations. Nobody’s expecting Palmer to cause Hulkenberg too much trouble in the inter-team battle, but the British driver has a record of drastically improving as he gets a feel for a championship, especially in GP2.
There hasn’t been much mention of the British driver in the off-season with the headline addition of Hulkenberg, but his form towards to the end of the season was much improved. Neither driver will star next season if the 2017 challenger resembles the RS16 and Hulkenberg’s admission that he’s not expecting top tens immediately gives the team some breathing space in terms of expectation.