Red Bull tweaks Mercedes over attempt to increase ‘Fuelgate’ punishment

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Red Bull’s “Fuelgate” episode that cost Daniel Ricciardo a podium finish at the Australian Grand Prix appeared settled after the FIA rejected the team’s appeal last week.

But after the release of the full verdict – which noted that rival Mercedes lobbied for “a ban of no less than three races plus a disqualification for a further six months, suspended for a year” against Red Bull – the reigning World Champions apparently decided that a final shot was in order.

In a piece on their official webpage, Red Bull’s anonymous “Spy” talked about the subject as follows:

“The big news we’re digesting is that the playful scamps at Merc decided to have a good old sticky-beak at our appeal and requested we receive a three-race ban.

There’s a few pursed lips from our management at that but they’ve decided to rise above it and not comment – but down here at the coalface you can be sure we’re telling out mates in the next garage along where they can shove that three-pointed star.

Actually, it’s quite reassuring: it means we’re getting close enough to get them rattled and sweating a bit. Back in February, that looked pretty unlikely.

At least that’s what Spy thinks: it seems we’ve undergone a change in the last couple of weeks. It’s going to be a long time before we completely understand this car but we’ve gone past the stage of just trying to get it to work and are now into the stage of trying to make it go faster.”

A good tweak by the Bulls, but the fact remains that Mercedes has had them – and everyone else – covered through the first four races of the season.

While Ricciardo has been delivering a stiff challenge for Red Bull’s leader crown against the formerly invincible Sebastian Vettel, the ‘Silver Arrows’, with points leader Nico Rosberg and winner of the last three races, Lewis Hamilton, have opened up a sizable lead in the Constructor’s Championship on the strength of a superior engine and a solid car.

But there’s still lots of racing left to come, and we’ll see if the European rounds bring about a shift in fortunes for both squads.

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.