Hulkenberg says Renault car "behind expectations"

Nico Hulkenberg says Renault's new Formula 1 challenger is "behind expectations" with its performance and balance, despite an encouraging start to the season.

Hulkenberg says Renault car "behind expectations"
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team and Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport F1 Managing Director
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18
Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18

The French car manufacturer appears to be near the front of the chasing pack behind the top three teams, with Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz having taken a double points finish at the Australian Grand Prix.

But although the team felt it could have got more from its car in Australia, Hulkenberg says that the car has not met the expectations he had for it.

Asked ahead of the Bahrain GP about his feelings about the RS18, he said: "The balance is not good enough really, no.

"Balance wise and car characteristics it is not what we wanted to have and where we wanted to be. We are a bit behind expectations there, I would say."

Pushed on whether those issues could be solved with a better set-up, Hulkenberg replied: "I think we need something more substantial to get that out and get better."

Hulkenberg is still lacking a maiden podium finish in F1 and, although Renault is making good progress, he does not sense that he will achieve a top-three finish just yet.

"I don't think so," he said. "Unless something crazy happens at the front like in Singapore we are not there. We cannot compete with those top three teams unfortunately. They are too quick and out of reach at the moment.

"I would love to say yes but I think reality is, and you have to be realistic as well, at the moment it is no. We are just at the beginning of the season and there is a lot of time ahead of us and we have some aggressive developments scheduled, but now for the moment I don't see it is possible."

Hulkenberg's views on the Renault are not shared by his teammate Sainz, who thinks that the car has delivered a solid platform which can be improved dramatically over the course of the year.

"To be honest, in Australia I was feeling really, really comfortable in the car," he said. "Up until qualifying I was feeling really, really comfortable, a lot more comfortable than Barcelona.

"It is just that the lap in Q3 didn't come. In Barcelona we were struggling to think we were going to fight the Haas and suddenly in Q2 I was ahead of them with that lap. I felt really comfortable and I hope we can bring this feeling into Bahrain."

Sainz does concede that Renault is facing a big gap to the top three teams ahead, though, although he is not ruling out getting closer to Red Bull over future months.

"Red Bull is far away," he said. "I don't know exactly lap time wise, but they are far away and they are going to develop this year.

"They are the fastest developing team in F1 during the season they are very good at developing the chassis. But our target is to out develop everyone this year, so if we can get a bit closer during the year, it will be a good sign - and Renault is ready to lead that development programme this year."

Additional reporting by Scott Mitchell and Adam Cooper

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