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Hulkenburg welcomes Renault's growing confidence

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team
© XPB 

Nico Hulkenberg says Renault is growing in confidence and stature as the team heads into the 2018 season with high expectations.

The manufacturer returned to Formula 1 as a full constructor in 2016. Hulkenberg himself joined the team at the start of last season.

“It feels much more mature and like a grown operation and unit,” he said, comparing the team's status one year on.

"The car build, how the car is running and what we achieved is 100 degrees better than last year," he told the Formula 1 website. "So that’s all very, very good.

"It’s what the target was but also what we need to do if we want to succeed with this project.”

Hulkenberg is clearly feeling enthusiastic about getting back to racing in just two weeks time.

"Melbourne is luckily not too far away and we finally go racing again," he said. "I feel good. I feel positive.

"We’ve collected a lot of miles and a lot of data and pretty much successfully got through our programme. Which is not always that normal in winter testing!"

However it's not all plain sailing. On the final day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Renault lost almost all of its morning running time due to a reported gearbox failure.

"We had a few hiccups and problems here and there," he admitted. "But that’s normal with a new car and new systems.

"There’s a lot of new stuff on the car but you might not see so much as a lot of it is under the covers."

Hulkenberg has been stood down from testing on Friday in favour of Carlos Sainz, who joined the team toward the end of last season.

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul has described Sainz' arrival at Enstone as a sort of 'wake-up call' for Hulkenberg. But Sainz himself took issue with that description.

"It did not wake him up, because he's a competitor who never falls asleep," asserted the Spanish driver. "But it did worry him. And I think that's what drives him to excel.

"I already knew that a teammate always looks at who is next to him," Sainz told El Mundo Deportivo. "And so I knew that with being fairly close to him in the first race then obviously Nico would have that concern."

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