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We had the same result in China as Bahrain just one week before, but the feeling after Shanghai was almost entirely positive rather than lucky. In a straight fight against our competitors, we confirmed that we currently have the fourth best engine-chassis-driver combination on the grid. This is what we must carry forward and target at every race and the priorities are clear for both sides of Renault Sport Formula One Team at Enstone and Viry.

It’s also been an encouraging start in the Formula Renault Eurocup for the Renault Sport Academy members. At Circuit Paul Ricard, Max Fewtrell took a race win, and in Monza Christian Lundgaard claimed his first victory in his rookie season and leads the Drivers’ standings.

Baku will mark the start of the next phase of our season push. We will debut some new chassis upgrades, specifically on the wings and bargeboards, which will be followed on the engine side in Barcelona. We are confident that the combination of these developments can allow us to maintain our performance. We need to remain focussed on making every single element work.

Breaking Wind
Consistency has been the key to the team’s encouraging start to the 2018 season. As we head to round four in the city of winds, the Baku Street circuit provides a unique challenge for team and driver as Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester explains.

How challenging is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?
It’s an interesting track and one of the newer Grand Prix on the calendar. It has a really good street section, particularly through the old town, where it’s really twisty with the potential for misery with the walls to catch the unwary. That provides a really good challenge for both car and driver. Then there’s a few medium to fast speed corners on the open part of the track and that very long straight.

The straight actually makes it a bit of a challenge, as we can’t run the downforce we’d like for the middle section and we have to take a lot off for the long straight, which is a compromise. You have a challenge to get the tyres working properly in the correct window, as you can’t run the downforce you want so it’s about striking that balance. You need the lap time as well as a competitive top speed which can be a trade-off.

Is it tricky to negotiate the infamous Baku winds?
Wind makes a massive difference as the cars are generally quite yaw sensitive. The aerodynamic structures are designed to work in a fairly small yaw angle range. When you get a side wind, with the accompanying increase in aerodynamic yaw angle, the flow structures tend to break down, losing downforce as a consequence. A tailwind can be tough as well to manage as again you lose downforce with less total air pressure meeting the car. We’ll be adjusting set-up throughout the weekend to cope with wind and track temperature.

Earth, Wind and Fire
A second successive sixth place for Nico Hülkenberg leaves him well in the mix at the front end of the midfield fight. Now Nico is ready to get his groove on in Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire, in the city famed for its strong winds.

What do you like about Baku?
It’s still a fairly new venue to Formula 1 and we are still getting used to it. It’s an interesting place and certainly carries a different vibe to the usual Grand Prix with the old town buildings and cobbled streets. There are some cool looking, vintage houses around with an old castle situated at the heart of the circuit. Last year’s race is memorable for the fans, not so much for me unfortunately, but if it’s similar to last year we have to make sure we can seize on every opportunity.

How difficult is a lap of the circuit?
There are some walls waiting for you so it’s important to be quite brave, but not go over the limit. The viewing is good for fans and the speed is cool to watch. It’s the fastest street circuit on the calendar with overtaking possible with the long, DRS straight. There are a lot of tight, 90-degree turns matched with flat-out kinks, which give you a buzz when you fly through. The castle complex of turns 8 to 10 is especially close with the wide cars. Monaco is spacious in comparison!

Are you pleased with your opening to the 2018 season?
It’s a positive start to the season, and it’s good to be at the front end of the midfield. It’s important to keep picking up a good number of points to make sure we are in the hunt. It’s about continuing on this upward trajectory and putting the work in to make sure we are ahead of our rivals.

Ride like the Wind
Carlos Sainz added to his points tally for 2018 last time out, but the Spaniard wants to build on that on the cobbled streets of Baku.

How does Baku compare to other street circuits on the calendar?
It’s difficult to draw comparisons from the Baku track layout to Monaco or Singapore, even if it’s a street circuit. They are all very different and unique. What I will say is it’s a very tough circuit to race at, not necessarily tougher than Monaco, but it gets quite close to it and any small error will be punished. You have to keep concentration levels high all weekend. Last year’s race was spectacular for the fans and I had an interesting afternoon myself. After a compromised start to avoid contact, I dropped near the back of the pack but I managed to finish eighth, which was very satisfying.

Have you explored the city of Baku?
It seems a cool place with a blend of modern and old architecture. The medieval castle is very impressive and we are lucky to drive past it on every lap. I think that’s very unique and some of the photos you see are very cool and different. One perk of Baku is the hotel is very close to the track, so logistically it makes our lives easier. There’s been some impressive concerts during the Formula 1 weekend in Baku with great artists. Fans have a great time here and that is always important.

With three races under your belt, what is your feeling on the Renault R.S.18?
In general, I think these three first races have been quite positive and the whole team is showing great commitment to achieve our objectives. On my side, I have had the chance to try different set ups in the car and I’m confident we’re heading in the right direction. We have to keep up the good work and always try to improve to bring as many points home as possible.

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