16 August 2017 – GPUpdate.net continues its mid-season review by reflecting on Renault's slow and steady progress since its full-time return, with wildly contrasting fortunes for drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Jolyon Palmer.
WCC points: 26
Best race: 6th (2 x HUL)
Best qualifying: 6th (1 x HUL)
Fastest laps: 0
Qualifying duel: HUL 11 – 0 PAL
Renault has so far failed to meet its pre-season expectations, though is at least making progress. The R.S.17 is undoubtedly an improvement on its unloved, cobbled together predecessor, and recent gains, including a revised floor, have lifted the manufacturer towards the front of the midfield, after initially lacking in race pace compared to one-lap performance. Nico Hülkenberg has led the charge, while Renault is paying the price for dithering with its driver choice in 2016, before ultimately, reluctantly, keeping Jolyon Palmer. Renault's pace has been slightly inconsistent, though as said, improved of late, but reliability has been a weakness, with the maligned Palmer in particular affected, having had several events scuppered by problems either in races or practice sessions. Renault targeted sixth by mid-season, and fifth at the conclusion of the campaign; it has not realised its first goal, and its overall ambition remains a little optimistic. The Robert Kubica comeback story has instilled a positive vibe around Renault, and his presence would represent a boost, but as it stands, the team is behind where it should be.Nico Hülkenberg:
WDC points: 26
Best R result: 6th (2x)
Best Q result: 6th (1x)
It is tricky to fully evaluate how Hülkenberg has performed this season due to the level of his team-mate (considering how he paired with Sergio Pérez at Force India) but overall the German appears revitalised in 2017, now that the tyre-preserving mantra which was ill-suited to his style has been ditched. Hülkenberg had put in some standout performances both across one-lap and in race trim to single-handedly contribute to Renault's points total. His display all weekend in Britain was outstanding, while other strong runs in Bahrain, Russia and Spain have boosted the total. He was also unfortunate not to score in Monaco, due to a gearbox failure, while decent pace in Hungary went unrewarded. Elsewhere, a clumsy mishap in Azerbaijan – tagging the inside wall at Turn 7 – cost him a big chunk of points, while a poor start in Austria ended any hopes of a top 10 finish, albeit on a weekend when the Renault package was off the pace. Hülkenberg has completely annihilated Palmer this season, though his prospects of finally moving up the grid will depend much on Renault's progress – and how much he can influence that – rather than merely beating the other side of the garage.Jolyon Palmer:
WDC points: 0
Best R result: 11th (3x)
Best Q result: 10th (1x)
Palmer built on a tricky start to his Formula 1 career with a measured second half of 2016, indicating that there was scope for improvement, but his practice crash in Australia set the tone for the season. Palmer has been comprehensively beaten by Hülkenberg, and while the latter has greater experience, the gaps over one-lap have been embarrassingly large for top-level motorsport. In over half of the sessions where a comparison is possible – usually Q1 or Q2, due to Palmer not progressing – he has lagged almost a second behind Hülkenberg. Consequently, he has started on average six places behind Hülkenberg at each event, restricting his prospects of scoring points, meaning the team begins to lose confidence and gravitate towards the other driver, as a negative spiral races out of control. The manner in which he drifted away from Hülkenberg after they swapped places in Hungary was worrying, while he has also complicated his own task through practice/qualifying incidents. He has been the more unfortunate Renault driver – his Azerbaijan weekend was ruined by an FP3 fire while he was crushingly unable to start in Britain due to a formation lap glitch – but this has been a poor campaign.