[F1 2018 VIDEO FEATURE] RENAULT SPORT: SERIOUS PROGRESS

Renault Sport took its fourth double points finish for the season in Canada, the 10-point haul mirroring China and Azerbaijan as its equal-highest since returning to F1 as a constructor in 2016.

The result also cemented the French marque’s hold on fourth place in the constructors’ standings, 14 points clear of customer team McLaren, which it jumped after Spain.

… making Renault the best of the rest – filling the gap between the sport’s top teams and super-competitive midfield.

But unlike Force India, which finished fourth in the last two years, Renault has the strategy and resources to not just bridge the gap to the top teams – but to again become one of them.

… and the feeling from the top is that everything is on target.

SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT:
“I really see a team that is in line with its plan. It’s a long term plan that we developed in 2015. A 6-year plan, 3-years of reconstruction, 3-years of challenging the top teams. 2018 will be the last year of that reconstruction phase. And even though there is still so much to be done, I can only see positive coming from both Enstone and Viry.”

But, Renault has always done things its way – its F1 program long-based on efficient performance, and its second-straight F1 World Championship double, with Fernando Alonso in 2006, secured with only the sport’s sixth highest budget at the time.

And it’s a strategy Renault Sport Racing managing director Cyril Abiteboul is presiding over in the current era – having stated that he wants the squad to win again with just 85 per cent of its rivals resources.

Last year, Renault’s budget was the fifth highest, operating on 150 million British pounds, which was 65 million less than Red Bull – 140 million from Mercedes and 200 less than top spender Ferrari.

For now, the investment continues in infrastructure and people, with 2018 the final year of the team’s reconstruction – but driver Nico Hülkenberg says that much of what the team needs is already in place.

SOUNDBITE (English) NICO HÜLKENBERG,
F1 DRIVER, RENAULT:
“The structures that we’ve built now and put in place. I think everything is kind of settling down now. And we just need to extract more and more from the infrastructure and the people and everything that we have got in the team now.”

Hülkenberg has proved an asset to the team, with the German blossoming at the manufacturer squad. His 32-point tally following Canada, putting him eighth in the drivers’ standings.

… just ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz, on 24 points, whose long-term future with the outfit is stronger, on the back of news that Daniel Ricciardo is likely to remain at Red Bull Racing at least into 2019.

SOUNDBITE (English) CARLOS SAINZ,
F1 DRIVER, RENAULT:
“The dynamic with Nico has been great since the moment I met him back in Austin last year. I think we can also be a very strong pair of drivers that can help the team to go forward and to take that next step that we all want.”

Canada was another step forward, with the power unit upgrade from Viry- Châtillon said to be worth 20 brake horsepower or more than two tenths of a second per lap: reportedly created with a new fuel from supplier BP – and a rearrangement of the engine’s inlet trumpets.

The French Grand Prix ahead will be a proud moment for Renault, given it’s a home race for the team, and the fact that it’s won the event five times as a constructor, its last with Alonso in 2005. Alain Prost – now a special advisor – taking two of his six French victories with the squad.

Regardless, there’s a feeling of déjà vu at Renault – with its last era in the sport following a similar trajectory, its 2002 return leading to both crowns just three years later, and again in 2006.

And while F1 is now a far more complex beast – in just two years, Renault has gone from ninth in the constructors to fourth. With such rapid progress no one would bet against the French marque replicating past glories.