Renault has paid tribute to the “instrumental” role Nico Hulkenberg played in its Formula 1 revival ahead of his final race with the team at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg joined the French manufacturer a year after it returned to F1 as a fully-blown works entry and had a key influence in helping the team move up the pecking order.

Renault secured sixth place in the constructors’ championship during his maiden season, before improving to fourth last year. Despite performing solidly against Daniel Ricciardo in 2019, Renault has opted to sign Esteban Ocon for next season.

Hulkenberg has been unable to land a drive elsewhere on the 2020 grid and is set to bow out of F1 after this weekend’s season finale at Yas Marina following a 10-year spell in the championship.

“It is clear that Nico has been instrumental in our progress through F1,” said Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul.

“We needed a driver who had the experience and maturity to help us take the next step and we couldn’t have asked any more of him.

“It wasn’t an easy decision as he has many strong attributes: he’s a great driver, always motivated and looking and pushing for more, which has, in turn, spurred us on.

“We wish him every luck for the future and sincerely thank him for his huge contribution to Renault F1 Team over the past three years.”

Mark Slade, who acted as Hulkenberg’s race engineer throughout his three-year tenure at Enstone, said the German took Renault to “another level” upon his arrival in 2017.

“When Nico joined us for 2017 he took us to another level,” he explained. “Almost overnight we were back on the map and operating like a big team again.

“When you have someone you know can deliver, it’s like a form of subconscious motivation.

“He’s smart, efficient and doesn’t mess around, although he does have a particularly good sense of humour. He’s determined to deliver and he’s remarkably resilient, probably much more than we are in engineering!

“We’ve had some great races together, but the history books won’t do justice to them. It’s been a pleasure to work with him.

“I would say he’s in the top drawer of racing drivers I’ve worked with in my career. He’s felt part of the team and really invested in our development and that’s been a good feeling.”

Renault sporting director Alan Permane described Hulkenberg as a “no-nonsense” driver and hailed his impact on the team, particularly with regards to his technical feedback to aid car development.

“Nico is a driver who gets on with the job,” Permane said. “He’s pretty no-nonsense and wants to race and develop the car, which has helped us no end.

“His feedback is exceptional as he strips the emotion away; even after a bad race he is able to deliver measured, constructive debriefs.

“His technical insight has been extremely important for us,” he added. “I can remember one time in Silverstone in 2017 when he had been telling us about a particular handling characteristic of the R.S.17 – he wanted to carry more speed into the corners and felt the downforce was dropping off just where he needed it most.

“We developed a new floor to help with this and finally got one in time for the British Grand Prix. He didn’t say anything for a while on the radio and then finally keyed up.

“He said: ‘I haven’t said anything but if you could see my face, you’d see there was a massive smile on it!’ It kind of sums him up: when he’s got something to say, it’s always worth listening.”

 

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