Nico Hulkenberg says he is anticipating a tougher challenge from new Renault team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr compared to previous partner Jolyon Palmer.

The German driver is relishing the chance to race alongside Sainz, who has switched to Renault early ahead of his one-year loan from Red Bull for 2018, having spent the 2017 campaign with Palmer as his team-mate.

While Hulkenberg produced a clean sweep in head-to-head qualifying performances in 2017 at Renault, beating Palmer 15-0, the German driver also thoroughly outperformed his former team-mate in races with six points finishes to the British driver’s one.

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With Sainz impressing at Toro Rosso, the German driver has scored 14 fewer points so far this campaign than the Spanish driver and is confident the pair will be a strong match for the remainder of the year and heading into next season.

“I definitely expect a harder time than so far this year,” Hulkenberg said. “Sainz has got a few challenges on his plate, changing teams right at the back end of the season is not the easiest situation with a lot of new things he has to get used to like the car, the team and the people. I am sure he will be on a decent level straightaway.

“I look forward to working alongside him and obviously there are four, intense and important races ahead of us. We need to focus and do a good job.”