Nico Hulkenberg is relishing a “great opportunity” to show his calibre against new teammate Daniel Ricciardo, according to Renault chief Marcin Budkowski.
Having joined Renault at the start of 2017, Hulkenberg will go into his third season with the French manufacturer with a third different teammate having been partnered with Jolyon Palmer in 2017 and Carlos Sainz in 2018.
But with Ricciardo joining Renault for 2019, the German driver faces a teammate with a better record than his own with the Australian notching up seven Formula 1 race wins, 29 podiums and three pole positions so far in his career.
Budkowski says Hulkenberg has welcomed Ricciardo to the team and is excited to prove himself against an F1 race-winner at Renault.
“I think for Nico having Daniel coming in with his reputation as a very quick driver, a very good driver and a very good overtaker but also someone who has proved themselves as a race winner, I think he sees it as an opportunity to prove himself,” Budkowski said when asked by Crash.net about Hulkenberg’s reaction to Ricciardo joining.
“His reaction wasn’t at all unhappy that someone of the calibre of Daniel was coming. He was very happy about it and he feels it is a great opportunity for himself to show what he’s capable of.
“I think we are going to have an interesting interaction in terms of two drivers that have never been competing against each other in the same team and that are both highly-rated. But I don’t expect that to be a problematic relationship.”
Hulkenberg has the unwanted record of most F1 career starts without a podium, currently at 156 race starts, which Budkowski is eager to see ended to reward both the German and the team as it targets its first podium since its fully-fledged return to the sport as a factory entry in 2016.
Renault’s last F1 podium as a constructor came at the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix when Nick Heidfeld secured third place.
“I hope so for him and I hope so for us as well. It would be good to see a car on the podium,” he said. “Unless there’s a big shake-up in terms of the pecking order it will have to be on specific race circumstances.
“Unless we have one of the two quickest cars on a regular basis it’s going to be difficult to be on the podium.
“But certainly we need to be in a position that we are ready to grab any opportunity. There was one such opportunity last year and we weren’t there to grab it.
“We need to make sure that if there are opportunities to be on the podium this year that we are there and the first to be able to grab them.”