Nico Hulkenberg finally has the chance to measure himself against a top-rated driver for the first time in his career. Having previously driven for Williams, Force India, Sauber, and Now Renault, he has had solid drivers such as Rubens Barrichello, Paul Di Resta, Esteban Gutiérrez and Sergio Perez as team mates.
At Renault, he was paired with Jolyon Palmer and Carlos Sainz Jr. for the last 2 seasons and coming out on top on each occasion in head-to-head comparisons. Now firmly ensconced in the Enstone team ecosystem, Daniel Ricciardo is his biggest challenge yet and he realises it.
I have to be at the top of my game, I would say. I don’t think I have to raise my game. I always feel that I want to get everything out of myself and if I do my homework right usually I perform pretty well and it’s enough to beat my team mate but for sure with him coming it’s a big challenge.He’s fast, he’s good in all the aspects, he’s a grand prix winner, a multiple one. I just have to work at my very best and be hungry and consistent.
As of January 2019, the German holds the unwanted and unflattering record for the most Formula 1 career starts without a podium finish. He hopes to correct that this season with Renault, who themselves haven't had a podium since Nick Heidfeld in Malaysia in 2011. He is also optimistic of the insider information that Ricciardo will bring with him about the aerodynamic powerhouse that is Red Bull and his inputs in setting up the car for races told Auto Motor und Sport.
Drivers are not engineers and certainly not aerodynamicists. But he could help us by explaining what Red Bull did with various systems or on setting up the car. That will be interesting for sure.
As for Renault's 2019 chances, while the engine has been found wanting, there is a chance with a change in regulations that Renault might just get it right. The onus is on the team according to 'The Hulk'
"With the new front wings no one knows exactly where to go. But it's not a full reboot, more of a soft reset. As a factory team, it must be our claim to be much closer to the front.”