With Renault struggling for reliability and locked in a tight battle with Alfa Romeo Racing for midfield superiority, drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo share their thoughts on the challenges of the Baku City Circuit, while Cyril Abiteboul and Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester give the latest on the team and on the 2019 package.
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal:
“If our objective this season – to widen the midfield gap – remains unchanged then we must accept to put in strong efforts to resolve these issues that could compromise our season. Nevertheless, we will push on and bring new elements over the next races. Baku is often unpredictable, the racing there is thrilling and it is an opportunity to capitalise on rivals’ errors whilst avoiding making some ourselves.”
Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director:
“Baku has a nice layout, which makes it very interesting. It’s almost three circuits put together. The first section is like Sochi with right-angled corners and some straights, then the middle section is similar to Monaco and the final part like Canada with a long straight. It’s a tricky combination to get right as, ideally, you’d run a different downforce level for each sector. There’s always a compromise for downforce levels there.”
“Baku is an interesting place and has a different feeling to the conventional Grand Prix weekend. It’s also a bit different to any street track because everything is located quite close together, including the distance between the hotel to the paddock. The old town buildings, vintage houses, castles and cobbled streets are all quite cool to see. The race is also interesting year on year; I’ve been a little unlucky for the past two seasons there, but you have to be in the right place at the right time to capitalise on any opportunity.”
“Baku is a unique circuit, different to other street circuits we race on, because there are a lot of places to overtake. Baku has been interesting for me; I’ve had high points, like the crazy win in 2017, and also some low points like last season. 2017 was a wild race, it was like we were karting and all of us were kids again. There are some things in Baku, which future circuits could replicate. The long, winding straight lends itself to massive slip-streaming and close racing. It’s a low downforce setting on the car, making it a low grip circuit.”