Nico Hulkenberg believes Haas has overtaken McLaren in Formula 1’s pecking order and is quickly establishing itself as Renault’s biggest threat in 2018’s tight midfield battle. 

Haas missed a number of opportunities to score big results early on this season despite boasting one of the strongest packages of the midfield teams, but successive points finishes across F1’s first-ever triple header - including its best result of the year in Austria - has lifted the American squad up to fifth in the constructors’ standings. 

The two teams are separated by just 19 points as the battle over fourth place continues to intensify. McLaren was expected to provide new engine suppliers Renault with a serious challenge for ‘best of the rest’ status this year, but Hulkenberg feels the Woking-based outfit has slipped back as the season has progressed. 

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When asked by if he feels Haas now poses the greatest threat to Renault, Hulkenberg replied: “It looks like it now, since the last couple of weekends. I think its shifted around with Haas coming through more and McLaren seem to have lost out a little bit. 

“We take them seriously because they are fast. How they got there doesn’t really play a role for me, they are strong at the moment and  we just have to deal with it.

“They fulfilled their potential [in Austria], whereas before they’ve really missed out. The momentum sometimes swings around, but at the end of the day they have a strong car and a good package.”

Teammate Carlos Sainz agreed, adding the Enstone-based outfit has improvements to make over one-lap after Haas out-qualified both Renault drivers in Austria and Silverstone. 

“At Paul Ricard we qualified 0.4s away, in Austria it was 0.7s so it’s a lot of laptime. It does reduce for us in race trim which is good news for us but we know how important qualifying is,” he said. 

“We will have some good battles out there and if they put some results together they will definitely come up a bit.”

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen recently said consistency would determine the direction of which team would come out on top in the fight over fourth, and Hulkenberg believes the French manufacturer has been the most consistent midfield team so far. 

“If you look at, maybe not the last couple of races, but before that we’ve been the most consistent team and that’s why we’ve found ourselves in fourth position and why we deserve it,” he added.

“We’ve had a couple of difficulties and technical problems, but we’re hopeful that we are through them now and that we can pick it back up and stabilise where we want to be.”

The German, who is the highest-placed driver in the championship outside of F1’s leading three teams, is confident Renault will ultimately prevail in the standings come the end of the season. 

“We still have a good package and we have some things in the pipeline that we will release over the next few weekends. We have tracks coming up that will suit us better,” he explained. 

“These three circuits were really tailor made for their car. I see us having a better package and being stronger, but we have to prove that and do the job.”