Renault now boasts one of, if not the, strongest driver line-ups on the 2019 Formula 1 grid, according to team principal Cyril Abiteboul. 

The French manufacturer lured seven-time grand prix winner Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull to partner team regular Nico Hulkenberg for the upcoming season, leaving Renault confident about its chances heading into this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. 

"The first race of the year, the Australian Grand Prix, is a high point of the season, but even more so this year as Daniel Ricciardo makes his race debut for the team,” Abiteboul said. 

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“We head there united and with strong determination. We have a new car that has shown potential in Barcelona [pre-season testing]. The power unit has made progress and our driver line-up of Daniel and Nico is perhaps the strongest on the grid.

“We’re looking forward to seeing them showcasing their experience and talent on track. There is a lot of expectation for the first race, especially with Daniel’s debut for the team coming at his home Grand Prix.”

Renault has high hopes of building on its fourth-place finish in the 2018 constructors’ championship, after claiming it has already hit the “high targets” it set for its 2019 engine in winter testing. 

Ricciardo said he is relishing the prospect of his first race with his new team following months of “theories and speculation” about whether his latest career move was the right one. 

"It’s an exciting thought that my first race for Renault is my home grand prix,” Ricciardo added. 

“There’s always so much hype at the start of the Formula 1 season, and this has been amplified by me joining a new team. I’ve had this date circled since I announced I’d be signing with Renault and I’m looking forward to getting race week started. 

“It’s been a long winter with a lot of theories and speculation going around, but the race track is where we settle all that. We had a good winter test, I’m growing happier every time I step into the car and the first race will be especially exciting.”

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