In the battle of Formula 1’s midfield, Renault Sport F1 Team won the day in Sunday’s British Grand Prix, with Nico Hulkenberg delivering a sixth place for the Enstone-based squad as “best of the rest” behind the two Mercedes, single Ferrari and two Red Bulls that were in the top five.
Hulkenberg and Renault have tended to fade this year in the races when they’ve had qualifying pace. But after qualifying a season-best sixth on Saturday, which became fifth on the grid with Valtteri Bottas’ grid penalty for a gearbox change, Hulkenberg backed it up on Sunday.
The German was poised for a top-five finish before Daniel Ricciardo came calling in the final laps in the Renault-powered, TAG Heuer-badged Red Bull.
Alas, Hulkenberg matched his season best result of sixth (Spanish Grand Prix) and was happy to have finished ahead of both Sahara Force Indias for his best career finish at Silverstone. He’d come seventh here for Force India each of the last two years.
“It felt good. Very good actually,” Hulkenberg told NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race. “I expected not too much but it was a positive surprise the pace and the balance were there. From Saturday to Sunday we scratched our heads with grip. But today it worked really well in our favor. We outpaced the Force Indias which is great news, and I didn’t see it coming at all.
“I think it’s couple things. It’s a high speed nature flowing tracks which suits the car better. I love the high speed stuff. I love this track,” he added about why he thought the race went better.
Hulkenberg said the car’s new floor and other updates to come will see Renault further up the order. This gives him and the team 26 points for the year – teammate Jolyon Palmer was unable to add to that with a brake-by-wire failure sidelining him before the race even started.
“This was an important thing for us to bring this floor and for it to deliver a big impact,” Hulkenberg said. “I know there is more coming for Budapest. I think the first half is decent – get to the points every now and then. But at this rate of progression we are looking for more vs. Haas, Williams and Force India and to take more points off them.”
Force India got both its cars home in the points again with Esteban Ocon finishing ahead of Sergio Perez for the first time this year, the pair ending in eighth and ninth. This marks the eighth time in 10 races Force India has banked a double points finish as they are a solid fourth in the constructor’s championship.
Neither was particularly thrilled with the result though, having been behind Renault at the weekend.
“Well I think it was a brilliant start. Felt like four-wheel drive!” Ocon told NBCSN. “We gained two positions. Then he took the place back. Great improvement on my side. There was a points finish again and we have to keep going.
“Sometimes they are faster than us. But it’s not consistent over the year. Maybe they drop a bit in the next race.”
Perez added to NBCSN, “It was a very difficult race today. Everything got complicated. We had much more pace than what we showed today. We didn’t get to show our true pace. Renault beat us big time. I couldn’t recover from the start. I think I managed my tires well. Silverstone is one of the most difficult tracks to overtake given how fast it is.”
Felipe Massa got the final point for Williams Martini Racing in 10th place, with one point a good result for the team as it celebrates his 40th anniversary in Formula 1. This extends Williams’ points-scoring streak to five races running. Lance Stroll endured a tough weekend, ending 16th, and ending his own three-race streak of scores.
Haas F1 Team’s longest ever run of consecutive points scores ended at five this race, with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean unable to better 12th and 13th. Magnussen ran in the points most of the race but ran a longer first stint on softs and switched to supersofts. Despite starting 10th after being frustrated on Saturday, Grosjean never looked a points scorer and had late-race contact with a Sauber that set him back.
McLaren got Stoffel Vandoorne home to the flag in a season-best 11th place, one spot shy of his first points finish of the year. Meanwhile Fernando Alonso reported in yet another loss of power and retired the car. His Q1 heroics on slick tires on a damp track stand as his highlight of the weekend.
Things were worse down Toro Rosso way, the pair of drivers in Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. colliding on the first lap. Sainz was done on the spot while Kvyat got a drive-through penalty for an unsafe re-entry and two more penalty points assessed, giving him nine in a 12-month period.
Sainz lamented another tough race when speaking to NBCSN.
“I don’t comment too much on FIA penalties, but not an ideal situation when we take each other out. It is a frustrating situation as one can imagine,” he said.
“I normally do (have confidence in him) which is why I gave a lot of space to him for the same piece of tarmac, but when one car loses control and hits the back of you, you can’t do anything but turn the page for Hungary.”
The midfield battle in the Constructor’s Championship sees Force India a clear fourth, Williams still fifth with Toro Rosso and Haas having lost a key opportunity to score today and Renault making a big push to get up to sixth as a result of Hulkenberg’s eight-point haul.