R enault takes a deep breath. 4th place in the constructors' championship is within reach. In the last two races the French works racing team has made up 22 points on HaasF1. Although Carlos Sainz was eliminated in a promising position with an electrical fault. The engineers suspect the battery. 'We would have finished sixth and seventh', Nico Hülkenberg is convinced.
The German has extended his lead as seventh in the World Cup to 12 points over Sergio Perez. He was thus best of the rest in two senses, the front runner in the second division of Formula 1. But Hülkenberg can no longer hear this title: 'That sounds somehow derogatory.' How would he then best be called? Hülkenberg grins: 'Just tell me a cool guy or a cool sock.'
Hülkenberg's GP Mexico was rather uneventful. Most of it happened on the first lap. He didn't even notice Esteban Ocon's grazing shot. “I saw it later on TV. Lucky that the rear tire held up. ”At the start he initially lost one position to team-mate Carlos Sainz. “I had too much slip when driving away and therefore not the ideal connection when shifting up. For me, Carlos is the best starter in the field. It's unbelievable how consistently he always does it. You can practice 1,000 times, but with adrenaline in an emergency it's always a little different. ”
Alain Prost complains
The rest of the race was just about tire management. “We had to do a one-stop race. From our point of view, rolling around with one stop was better than attacking with two stops. ”Hülkenberg cursed this driving with target lap times. “If you're just one time too fast, the tires will go to their knees. In the first few laps with a fresh tire, you immediately have grits. So I'm surprised that the Lewis always attacked with his new tires immediately. That was not clever, quite unusual for him. ”
After the pit stop on lap 12 with a four second lead over the Sauber, Hülkenberg had to stroke the Supersoft set for 57 laps. 'Then the tires were through.' At times, the midfield drove two to three seconds slower than the front. “We could have set 1.22 times in the early stages, but didn't want to risk a second pit stop,” explains Renault ambassador Alain Prost. As if to prove it, Hulkenberg turned it up again at the end of the race when everything was over. After the lap times always fluctuated between 1.23 and 1.24 minutes, the Renault driver accelerated on lap 67 and promptly reached 1.20.637 minutes.
Prost complains: “We're driving a completely different race like that Top. They can do what they want at the front because after just a few laps they have such a big lead that they stay among themselves. Nobody has to be afraid of falling into traffic. Our goal was 7th and 8th place. These fragile tires forced us to use a one-stop tactic. Once in traffic and you lose an incredible amount of time. You can't risk that. Overtaking is so difficult in Mexico because you can't drive up tight because of the cooling. Everything is at the limit. ”
In 90 degree corners at a top team level
Hülkenberg confirms:“ If I need a second stop, I fall hard into the field. The colleagues in the top cars always fall softly. They laugh at us. ”Does Hülkenberg see any chances of driving Renault in the other league soon? “That must remain our goal. I still want to experience that. ”
Now the tall Rhinelander is looking at the next races. “Brazil is getting harder. The layout is smoother, our car doesn't like that very much. Our strengths are the 90 degree curves. We are on a level with the top teams. ”According to Hülkenberg, the medium-fast corners in 4th and 5th gear are the biggest problem for the Renault R.S. 18. “If you turn the front wheels, downforce is lost. Somehow the harmony in the car doesn't fit. ”
Hülkenberg fears that Sao Paulo will again be the territory of HaasF1. Also because of the long uphill straight that demands a lot of power. “In Abu Dhabi it should be more balanced again, although engine power also plays a role.” With a 30-point lead, Renault can drive to the last two races of the year in a relaxed manner. 'We have made good provisions in Austin and Mexico,' Hülkenberg states with satisfaction.