Mercedes are the standard bearers in F1 with Lewis Hamilton on course to wrap up their fifth World Drivers’ Championship on the spin. The Brackley-based team are also set to secure the constructors title once again with fellow heavyweights Ferrari and Red Bull trailing in their wake. Renault are next in the World Constructors’ Championship standings with Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz ninth and twelfth respectively in the individual stakes.
Renault will be hoping to build on the current campaign when Ricciardo replaces Sainz ahead of next season.
Hulkenberg has predicted it will be some time before Renault can contend with the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull though.
“The battle is tight in the middle of the grid,” Hulkenberg said at the Paris Motor Show.
“The other teams have worked a lot to make life difficult for us and we haven’t looked very good.
“But we still have a good car and I think we can improve in the last four races and keep fourth place.
“Fourth is an improvement over last year. We are going in the right direction.
“I arrived last year and I’ve seen the team grow enormously with the investments made by Renault.
“The premises and equipment were improved and there were more people hired and more resources.
“Everything that can be expected from a manufacturer is there.
“Our ambition is always to be at the front, fighting for podiums and victories in a few years, but we are still in the development phase.
“I think we have put in place the structure we can build on in the next few years.”
Hulkenberg’s comments reflect those of Renault executive director Marcin Budkowski, who controversially joined them after leaving the FIA.
“We’re currently 1.5 seconds from the best,” Budkowski said.
“It would be ridiculous to say that we can erase this deficit when you consider organisations like Mercedes and Ferrari.
“Renault is now a big organisation that continues to grow.
“At the end of the season, we will have grown by 50 per cent compared to the workforce present at the buyout of Lotus in December 2015.
“We will be close to 700 people at the end of year but that does not mean that the fruit of the collective work of these 700 people will be visible from January.
“When people arrive, a time of adaptation is necessary.
“When you have young people, you have to train them.
“And we recruited a lot of apprentices and newly-graduated talents.
“We are only now seeing the benefits of the recruitments of 2016 and 2017 now.”
Hulkenberg and Sainz will both be looking to get points on the board for Renault at next week’s United States Grand Prix.