Abiteboul: Out-going Hulkenberg ‘instrumental’ in Renault progress
The 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is set to be Nico Hulkenberg’s 62nd and final outing with Renault, as the team prepare to field Esteban Ocon in his place for 2020. But ahead of their last race together, Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul paid tribute to the German’s contribution during his three-season stint with the Anglo-French squad.
Hulkenberg joined Renault in 2017, a year after their return as a works outfit. And with the team having finished ninth of 11 in the 2016 constructors’ standings, Hulkenberg helped them to a sixth-placed finish in 2017, while in 2018, the squad beat Haas to take fourth place.
And although 2019 has seen Renault superseded by McLaren as the dominant midfield force – and despite Renault making the call midway through 2019 to run Ocon, rather than Hulkenberg, alongside Ricciardo for 2020, putting Hulkenberg’s F1 future in doubt – Abiteboul was full of praise for the German’s efforts going into the Abu Dhabi season finale.
We’ve harnessed Nico’s experience and ability to deliver strong results. He’s played an important role in Renault’s Formula 1 journey
“[Nico’s] contribution has been instrumental in our reconstruction and progression,” said Abiteboul. “We have harnessed his experience and ability to deliver strong results and he has played an important role in Renault’s Formula 1 journey. We want to ensure we end our time together with the best result possible.”
Hulkenberg appears unlikely to secure a drive in Formula 1 for 2020, with the second seat at Williams the only one up for grabs, and seemingly set to be filled by Canadian Nicholas Latifi.
But putting aside his disappointment at losing his seat, Hulkenberg revealed that he had enjoyed his time with Renault, while lamenting some “nearly” moments – most notably when he crashed out of podium contention at this year’s German Grand Prix, in what would have been his first ever rostrum appearance.
“It’s been three memorable years for me at Renault,” he said. “There have been highs and lows, but I’ve enjoyed my time as a driver here. We’ve had some great results and some ‘nearly’ moments, all of which I’ll remember for a very long time.
“We have one more to go and we’ll be giving it our all for the best possible result.”
Renault need to keep their foot on the gas in Abu Dhabi to avoid losing their current fifth place in the constructors’ standings, with Toro Rosso just eight points adrift, thanks in part to Pierre Gasly’s sensational second place-finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix last time out.
Constructors' standings pre-Abu Dhabi
|6 Toro Rosso
|7 Racing Point
|8 Alfa Romeo Racing
|9 Haas F1 Team