Nico Hulkenberg predicts Renault will have “a big challenge on their hands” aiming to charge up the Formula 1 pecking order after a tricky 2019.

After acting as ‘best of the rest’ last year with a comfortable fourth place in the F1 world constructors’ championship Renault has slipped back one place behind McLaren this season while the gap to the top three teams appears unchanged.

The outgoing Hulkenberg, who has been axed at Renault in favour of Esteban Ocon, says the French manufacturer’s 2019 is “not the year that we wanted or needed”, as it struggled for consistency while with focus and resources moving towards 2021 ahead of the rules shake-up it could mean a similarly tough 2020 trying to bridge the performance gap.

“Obviously they still have a big challenge on their hands. I mean with 2021 in mind, a lot of things changing, 2020 again obviously they want to progress and get further up the grid. This year obviously, it was not a setback, but not the year that we wanted or needed,” Hulkenberg said.

“So they have challenge on their hands to bounce back from that and do better next year. So, definitely interesting and challenging times ahead but I wish them luck and all the best.”

Hulkenberg’s future plans remain unclear after playing down links to an IndyCar switch since his departure at Renault had been confirmed.

“I’m not ruling out anything,” he said. “That’s why for me, it’s still fun at the moment and a big part of me is excited about that break that I’m going to get. Not living in this schedule, in this rhythm, having to do these things at these times that are preset.”

While Renault is concentrating efforts towards 2021, it is undergoing a major technical reshuffle of his engineers teams with long-term technical director Nick Chester leaving Enstone after 20 years. Ex-McLaren and Ferrari engineer Pat Fry is set to join the team once he is free of ongoing contractual obligations at the Woking-based team.