[F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] RENAULT SPORT: ON TARGET

Renault Sport is focused on becoming an unstoppable force. The French manufacturer is committed to its goal of becoming a top team by 2020, with its target this year to continue the progress from last season – when it proved a solid top-10 contender.

And jumped three places in the constructors’ standings.

SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT SPORT:
“For 2018, it’s very much about showing that we can continue on the process initiated in 2017. We want to show that this progression is not stopping. We want to show there is more to come, we want to show that our plan is credible and that the team deserves respect.

Renault’s return to Formula 1 as a constructor in 2016 began with confidence in its history of success: back-to-back world title doubles in 2005 and 2006 with Fernando Alonso. And 10 more crowns as an engine supplier.

SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT SPORT:
“Renault has been in Formula 1 since 1977, we’ve been in Formula 1 in different forms, we’ve been capable of adapting to the situation.”

But its first year was little more than a transition, with the squad using a modified-2015 chassis as it re-built the team.

Renault’s last minute re-purchase of the debt-ridden Lotus squad forced it to shoehorn its power unit into the back of the chassis in double-quick time.

SOUNDBITE (English) NICK CHESTER,
CHASSIS TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, RENAULT:
“We made the decision very late to put the Renault Sport power unit in. The amount of work you have to do to resculpt the chassis, change your cooling geometry, all in a matter of a few months has been a really big effort for Enstone.”

Last year’s RS17 was a big step forward as the squad’s first collaboration between its Enstone race team in England, and its power unit HQ in Viry-Châtillon, near Paris in France. 

And that continued integration is starting to pay dividends.

SOUNDBITE (English) BOB BELL,
CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER, RENAULT:
“The Enstone-Viry relationship is greatly improved. Of course, we’re old friends. We’ve been together a long time. But it really is going from strength to strength now, there’s a lot more integration between the two sites. It’s, of course, driven by the fact that the modern V6 era - there has to be very strong integration.”

The squad also has a new lead racer in Nico Hülkenberg – who joined last year for his first manufacturer drive – alongside Jolyon Palmer, but the Brit did not last long, due to a consistent lack of results.

Hülkenberg earned points at six of the first 12 races, but Palmer took until Singapore to score. He was replaced from the USA by Carlos Sainz, who immediately proved his value with seventh on debut.

Renault takes that driver line-up into this year with Hülkenberg and Sainz a formidable pairing, and highly rated by the team.

SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT SPORT:
“It’s a very competent line-up, very quick drivers with lots of experience, fantastic charisma, lots of energy, lots of drive. In my opinion, it’s the best line-up that the Enstone team has ever had.”

And the on-track debut of the RS18 showed an equally aggressive approach for the squad, one that should push it forward.

SOUNDBITE (English) NICO HÜLKENBERG,
F1 DRIVER, RENAULT:
“The RS18 looks very aggressive, very mean. I like the design of it, a bit more black but a lot of yellow at the front especially if you see the car head-on from the front, it looks very dynamic, looks quick.”

The German, though, is yet to stand on an F1 podium, despite 135 starts. But you wouldn’t bet against Sainz beating him to it – the Spaniard on loan from Red Bull, and already having a major impact.

SOUNDBITE (English) CARLOS SAINZ,
F1 DRIVER, RENAULT:
“I got a lot of input on this year’s car, pretty much everything that I’ve asked for –
about the fine-tuning detail from the steering wheel, setup directions, this year’s car will have all those ideas from me. So I think it’s going to be very useful.”

On the opening day of pre-season testing at Barcelona, Hülkenberg said his first impressions of the RS18 were positive – the German able to complete 73 laps out of the box, despite cold conditions.

Regardless, Renault is marching on towards the front of the F1 grid - and with its intelligent approach, and driver line-up that is the envy of the field - you can bet it will make it ahead of its 2020 target.