[F1 2017 NEWS] RENAULT SPORT: 2018’S DARK HORSE

Renault Sport is set to be 2018’s dark horse. The French manufacturer continues to build strategically after its return to the Formula 1 grid last year, having repurchased the cash-strapped Lotus squad at the very end of 2015.

Last year was one of transition - as Renault ran a modified 2015 chassis – and re-integrated its race team base in Enstone, England – with its power unit headquarters in Viry-Châtillon, near Paris in France. All with a clear method for success.

SOUNDBITE (English) JÉRÔME STOLL,
PRESIDENT, RENAULT SPORT RACING:
“Recruitment, more than 25 per cent of new employees at Viry and at Enstone. Investment, everybody can see this investment, new building, new equipment - and this demonstrate very clearly that our decision are completely aligned with our ambition to become, within a short period of time, champion.”

… while this year’s RS17 was the first true collaboration between the two sites – the first step toward its ultimate goal.

SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT SPORT:
“We want to be fighting for championships by 2020, but we also want to do a decent job this year.”

With a new car, came a new driver lineup, Jolyon Palmer joined by Nico Hülkenberg – who had a lot to prove with his first manufacturer drive.

AUDIO QUOTE (English) NICO HÜLKENBERG,
F1 DRIVER, RENAULT:
“I’m very happy to be with them now, onboard, in this new era and look forward to the next few years and hopefully make it a successful couple of years
and take the team back to the top.”

Up to and including Singapore, the team has scored 42 points – which is 36 more than this time last year, the lion’s share by Hülkenberg, who has impressed – starting eight times from the top-10 across the first 14 races.

And the German is hungry for better results, especially now that he holds the record, post-Singapore, for most races – 129 – without a podium.

But next year, Hülkenberg will have a bigger challenge in new teammate Carlos Sainz – on loan from Red Bull – who has been unleashed from the brand’s Toro Rosso B-team after three seasons.

But how do they compare? Both are dominant point scorers, Sainz on 48 to Hülkenberg’s 34, and have outraced their teammates, but the German has had the edge in qualifying.

Regardless, in using Sainz as a deal sweetener to break its contract with Toro Rosso, Renault has gained one of the grid’s strongest point scorers - which will only accelerate its ongoing development.

SOUNDBITE (English) BOB BELL,
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, RENAULT:
“Making sure that reliability is still there under all conditions.”

And while Renault has had a few setbacks, in relinquishing its former team principal Frédéric Vasseur and Palmer only delivering his first points in Singapore - the team remains confident… in its ability to get the job done... 

…in its long-term Formula 1 history, having celebrated four decades in the sport this year at the Monaco and British Grands Prix.

....and in its recent achievements, which includes back-to-back F1 drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 2005 and 2006 with Fernando Alonso.

With 10 additional crowns earned as engine partners to Williams, Benetton and four-straight at Red Bull Racing.

It also has lots of faith in its own systems that have already produced better results this year; which, with a stronger car and two hungry drivers makes Renault the dark horse for 2018 and beyond.

SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT SPORT:
“There is more to come on both sides. It will obviously have an impact this year, we will see that, we will see that in particular in our capacity to bring quicker to the track upgrades on the car, but also upgrade on the engine, but that’s something that will really impact the car I expect by 2018 and 2019.”