Major consequences of huge Ricciardo war
LIFE won't get any easier for Nico Hulkenberg now he has Daniel Ricciardo by his side.
He's seen off Jolyon Palmer and Carlos Sainz in his first two years at Renault, but Hulkenberg admitted at the team's launch the arrival of Ricciardo as his latest teammate is a significant moment in his career.
The German finished one place behind his new Australian comrade in the drivers' standings last year, coming in seventh, while he was 10th in 2017 and ninth in 2016 in his last season with Force India.
Hulkenberg outscored Sainz by 16 points last year but he'll have a challenge on his hands remaining top dog in the Renault garage. And it's a challenge that may make or break the 31-year-old's career.
"One thing I know for sure is that it will not be boring with Daniel," Hulkenberg said, per Express.com.
"Of course it's a nice challenge to compete against a grand prix winner. I'm curious how it turns out.
"My future in the sport depends on the outcome of the duel, so of course Daniel is my first yardstick."
Hulkenberg said how he matches up with Ricciardo will have a huge bearing on what direction his future takes at the end of their first season together.
"It was sort of like that with Rubens (Barrichello, at Williams in 2010) but it was different. It was my rookie season and he was in something like his 18th season, so it wasn't a good or fair comparison," Hulkenberg said.
"This is much more real and good to compare. So for me personally a very important year to see how I step up next to that. That will obviously also determine my sporting future in a way."
Last year, after Ricciardo had announced his move but before officially joining forces with Renault, Hulkenberg threw down thew gauntlet to the West Australian.
"Daniel has won several grands prix. He is fast and motivated. I have to do my homework, be fast and consistent," he said.
"In that case I have always beaten my teammates."
Ricciardo's bombshell decision to quit Red Bull and ink a two-year deal with Renault stunned the F1 world and also broke up his partnership with Max Verstappen, which many believed to be the strongest pairing on the grid.
Now Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul believes the French outfit can put its hand up to boast such a claim.
"The added momentum of the Daniel-Nico partnership brings confidence to the team this season," he said.
"I believe we have one of the strongest - if not the strongest - driver line-up on the grid.
"Daniel brings proven race winning experience and knowledge of a top team, while Nico is hungry.
"He's hugely underrated - he's quick, determined and a team motivator.
"Individually they are very strong and I feel the two will complement each other extremely perfectly.
"The energy they have brought to the team is very tangible and I hope we can give them a car to show their considerable talent."
Neither Ricciardo nor his team, who finished fourth in the 2018 constructors' standings, are expecting to challenge for a world title this year or next, knowing full well they can't yet match it with big guns Mercedes and Ferrari.
But the new recruit likes what he's seen so far, even if he's going to reserve his judgment until the season proper stars.
"Obviously being pretty deep in the Renault family, I've seen numbers and I know they are not just saying it to please everyone. It has been a good winter," he told Motorsport.com.
"But, race cars are race cars. You might put it on track, and it has done a lot of stuff on the dyno, and then it's, 'Why is it doing that?' OK, we didn't expect that.'
"So you never really want to put all your eggs in that basket saying this is going to be sick.
"But look, so far what they have done over the winter, looking at the numbers they have done in previous years, it has been a good one.
"By no means are they saying it is going to be better than a Mercedes, but from what they have done it is really positive. It is nice to hear that for sure."