Intra-Team Battles: Hulkenberg vs Sainz at Renault

We have talked a lot about the intense and sometimes acrimonious rivalries in a team between their drivers. But sometimes the rivalries can be healthy too. We look at one such potential battle between Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr, within a team on the rise – the Renault Sport Formula One Team.

The Hulkenberg vs Sainz Battle

When Renault returned as a works team in 2016, they had a sub-par year with drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. At the end of that season, they hired Hulkenberg as the driver to lead them in their charge to become championship contenders in a few years time.

But opting to keep Palmer as his team-mate in 2017 proved to be a bad decision. Palmer did not give a convincing enough performance to be retained – and that is an understatement! Carlos Sainz ,on loan from Toro Rosso, replaced Palmer for the last four races of 2017.

For the 2018 season, the team announced that they would be using the services of Carlos Sainz to partner Hulkenberg.

Nico Hulkenberg has solid credentials

Hulkenberg has proved within the paddock that he has what it takes to be a driver for a leading team. He started his F1 career with the Williams team in 2010, securing an unlikely pole for them in Brazil. However, he was not retained.

After a year as a reserve driver with Force India, he was promoted to a race seat there and he showed his pedigree. He regularly punched above the team’s weight. Bidding to move up the grid, he joined Sauber in 2013.

But that year Sauber could not provide him good enough machinery to showcase his skills. This made him return to Force India in 2014. He stayed with Force India for another three years in this stint. After this, he was called upon by Renault works team as the lead driver.

It’s worthy to note, that during these years he was also being considered for one of Ferrari‘s race seats. During 2015, in between race weekends, Hulkenberg participated and won the 24 hours of Le Mans (for the Porsche team).

Sainz brings is a breath of fresh air

Carlos Sainz started his Formula One career with the Scuderia Toro Rosso team in 2015. That year he was paired with the sensational Max Verstappen. Even though all the media hype during their time together was around Verstappen, Sainz managed to give him a good run for his money. In the middle of the 2016 season, Verstappen was suddenly promoted to the senior Red Bull team. Sainz managed to get the better of the demoted Daniil Kvyat.

Eyeing his consistently good performance, Renault approached the Red Bull management to loan him to take over Jolyon Palmer’s race seat. Although Red Bull agreed to the request from Cyril Abiteboul, they have put in a caveat. So, if Daniel Ricciardo leaves Red Bull in 2019, Red Bull will have a right to ask Sainz back from Renault. It is a happy win-win situation for Carlos Sainz to be in.

Good times together for the drivers and team

Carlos Sainz immediately impressed his Enstone-based new employers in 2017 when he out-qualified his teammate – Hulkenberg (at the US Grand Prix). Thereafter it has been neck-to-neck between both drivers in qualifying. Hulkenberg has performed better in race trim with his experience. But all through his short stint with Renault so far, Sainz has more than impressed all with his inherent speed and gelling well with the team in no time.

During the recent pre-season testing, both Hulkenberg and Sainz have shown good speed and reliability for Renault. It bodes well for the team and the drivers alike if both of them push each other in a healthy competition. This will help in taking the high aspirations of the team forward. The fans will be eager to see the interesting and healthy rivalry bloom between the drivers. This will help lift each other’s performance to the brim.

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