Constructors’ championship | 122 points (4th)
Renault’s progression up the ladder in the teams’ standings continues after returning to the sport in 2016. They’ve gone from 9th in 2016 to best of the rest by claiming 4th this year. Still, you can’t imagine they will be particularly thrilled about it.
They finished 297 points adrift of Red Bull Racing in the championship and it shows the massive gap that exists between the top three and the rest.
Red Bull may have grabbed four wins with a Renault engine, but unreliability and a sizable power disadvantage to Mercedes and Ferrari means the factory team has a lot of work to do on the engine side as well as in the chassis/aero department to get near the top three. Their inconsistent form in 2018 will have been a concern for them as well.
They’ve made a bold statement of intent by signing Daniel Ricciardo – and it will be interesting to see if they can provide Hulkenberg and the Aussie with a really quick car next year.
Nico Hulkenberg | 69 points (7th)
The German took the top spot in the best of the rest category in 2018 following a very solid season for the most part.
Many predicted he would have a tough time against his new Spanish teammate – but he came flying out of the traps in the opening three events with a 7th and two 6th place finishes. He led his stablemate 22-4 in the standings at that stage.
Hulkenberg continued to collect valuable points in the first half of the season, with a best result of P5 at his home following a crazy race in the changing conditions.
As the season went on, he struggled somewhat as Renault lost some pace compared to their competitors – and it resulted in him only collecting three points finishes in the last ten races: P10 in Singapore and P6 at COTA and the Mexican Grand Prix.
There were a few errors throw in as well, however.
Azerbaijan: A silly crash cost him a great opportunity for a top-6 finish.
Belgium: He made a bad mistake at Spa when he locked up and rammed into the back of Fernando Alonso which triggered the scary accident between the Spaniard and Leclerc.
Abu Dhabi: Lastly, he was involved in a nasty incident on the opening lap with Romain Grosjean that sent him rolling. On balance, he could have left the Frenchman some more room to avoid a collision.
Overall though, it was a good, solid season for Nico. He beat Sainz in the qualifying head-to-head and outscored him by 16 points.
However, with Daniel Ricciardo arriving in 2019, he’ll be facing a massive challenge. It will tell us an awful lot about the German driver. His stock would surely rise if he came out on top.
Carlos Sainz | 53 points (10th)
Against an established, quality team-mate, Carlos Sainz had the opportunity to prove himself to Red Bull and the other top teams this year. While there were some good moments, too often he was anonymous throughout the season as Hulkenberg shone brighter for the vast majority of it.
He struggled to get near Hulkenberg in the first three rounds, but very strong drives at Baku (P5) and his home race (P7) left him only five points adrift of the German after five rounds.
Yet, he didn’t really kick on from there, especially in qualifying (apart from a stunning P5 in the wet at the Hungarian GP). Three Q1 exits (Britain, Belgium and Brazil) were particularly damaging when his team-mate made Q2 on each occasion.
However, one area he did hold an advantage over his stablemate was at starts. The Spaniard gained 24 places on lap one of races in 2018 and it enabled him to recover some lost ground if he put in an average qualifying performance.
Another positive for Sainz was the excellent finish he had to the year. Very powerful drives at COTA, Mexico (best of the rest before his car let him down) and Abu Dhabi are fine examples of the talent he has but needs to deliver it on a more regular basis.
In all the key areas, he did lose out to Hulkenberg and Sainz can’t happy with that.
Following a single season at Renault, the young Spaniard heads to McLaren next year. A big challenge awaits as he tries to help the sleeping giant awaken from its slumber and bring them back towards the front of the grid.
Hulkenberg vs Sainz
Qualifying head-to-head: 13-7