The Renault works team had a very poor Australian Grand Prix. Nico Hulkenberg finished the race in 11th, a lap behind eventual race-winner Sebastian Vettel. His teammate Jolyon Palmer was worse off, retiring on lap 15 after a strange brakes failure.
At the RS17 car launch, aspirational podiums were the talk of the French Manufacturer, but the reality is far from this. Usually combative in his racing, Nico Hulkenberg went missing during the Australian Grand Prix, unable to catch an Albert Park newbie in a Force India couldn’t have helped the German’s mood too much either.
Jolyon Palmer’s race weekend was over before qualifying got underway. The British driver’s RS17 never looked stable after the rebuild following an off in free practice. He was over a second down on Lance Stroll’s Q1 time that put the Canadian in 19th. It can’t be emphasised enough that damage sustained in free practice can ruin a race weekend, and Palmer’s weekend is a prime example of this, and people still say that the Friday sessions count for nothing!
Team Boss Cyril Abiteboul was displeased with the performance in the opening race, he said,
“This first grand prix of the season under these new regulations has delivered several lessons. explained Abiteboul. Our race result highlights that we were not as well prepared as our opposition and our lack of mileage and preparation, both during pre-season testing and during this weekend, meant we suffered.
We have learnt that in this new Formula 1 era everything needs to be perfectly executed, as it is very difficult to gain track position. We needed to be stronger at the start, in our execution of our strategy, in our pit stops and with our car set-up and balance.
Although there were very few laps of clean air to demonstrate it, we feel that our car-engine-driver combination allows us to be in the group that we were targeting to race against. At every race, we should be in a position to fight for Q3 on Saturday and to fight for points on the Sunday.
– Cyril Abiteboul
It’s a long season, but Renault look like they are already paying catch-up to midfielders like Force India, Toro Rosso and even Haas when it isn’t breaking down. Ferrari appear to have stepped up massively in the Power unit department, and there looks to be a greater gap back to Renault Power, emphasised by Max Verstappen’s inability to close down a very off Kimi Raikkonen for 4th during the race.
In Shanghai, the long straight in the final sector is going to catch them out, so expect another battle between silver and red for the second race of the season. It would be a massive shock to see either Renault get into Q3 in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, getting into Q2 might be a safer target.