Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz gave the Renault R.S.18 its season track debut at Albert Park today as preparations got underway for the season-opening Rolex Australian Grand Prix.

Both practice sessions took place in the afternoon under blue skies in Victoria, with Carlos marginally quicker than Nico come the end of 180 minutes of practice.

Alan Permane, Sporting Director - Technical programme notes:
• In FP1, Nico first ran with aero rakes conducting data logging, then conducted bargeboard comparisons and general set-up work using Pirelli’s Soft (yellow) and Supersoft (red) tyres.
• Carlos ran with the Supersoft tyres for the entirety of FP1, where his programme included assessment of the brakes.
• In FP2, both drivers conducted tyre evaluations and further aero work, with Carlos using the Soft and Ultrasoft (purple) whilst Nico sampled the Supersoft and Ultrasoft.

What we learned today:
• The Renault R.S.18 was reliable with pace to come.

Nico Hülkenberg, #27, R.S.18-02
Free practice 1: P13, 1:26.583, 25 laps
Free practice 2: P13, 1:25.463, 35 laps

Nico: “We had a decent amount of work to get through but a reliable car to get all the work done. I wasn’t so happy with the balance of the car on lighter fuel loads, but it felt much better when we went for the longer runs so there’s a sweet spot yet to be found. I would say there’s a decent amount of pace to come when we get the car working as I want it. It’s just general improvement in pretty much every area; the brakes, better balance and grip and the usual things you look for to go faster.”

Carlos Sainz, #55, R.S.18-01
Free practice 1: P9, 1:25.922, 23 laps
Free practice 2: P11, 1:25.390, 35 laps

Carlos: “It was a calm and fairly straightforward day for me and that was great to have for the first Friday of the season. The midfield is extremely tight so it’s difficult to say where we’ll be tomorrow. We do need to work on getting the Ultrasoft working a bit better as we didn’t manage a clean lap with it today. Conditions were great on track; it was an ideal day for Melbourne, but I think tomorrow we might have more of a challenge.”

Nick Chester, Technical Director, Chassis: “A pretty smooth day for us, where we ran through our planned programme without any issues or concerns. Carlos was able to find a decent car balance pretty early in the day whilst it wasn’t till Nico went out on the longer runs that he was much happier. Between the two cars we have a decent baseline and plenty of data to refine this further for tomorrow.”