Renault is recovering from a tough start to 2019, with the last Grand Prix at Silverstone a turning point for the squad.
One that saw the team take a second double points finish for the season - the RS19’s pace unlocked after Renault jettisoned a selection of parts from its major French Grand Prix upgrade package…
“We weren’t very encouraged after Austria and I felt we had a bit of work to do,” Ricciardo said. “So to bounce back in a week or so is really good for the team, just to give them the reassurance that the car can certainly work.”
It’s been a massively disappointing season so far for Renault, which went into 2019 with plenty of promise on paper, at least.
Across three seasons to the end of 2018 - Renault rose five places in the constructors’ standings from ninth to fourth. The French marque on a charge, after deciding to re-enter as a works team.
And its target going into 2019 was to close the gap to the top three outfits, and to finally pull ahead of F1’s brutal midfield.
SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT SPORT RACING:
“Since returning into the sport [as a works team] in 2016, Renault really has reached maturity now in Formula 1 after three years of transformation, of regeneration, of the team, we are now ready to challenge what will be the top teams. It’s going to take a while, but those teams should be within our reach very soon now.”
It also introduced a new star driver, nabbing a frustrated Ricciardo from Red Bull Racing to pair with Hülkenberg. The Australian needing time to bed in at the French marque.
SOUNDBITE (English) DANIEL RICCIARDO,
F1 DRIVER, RENAULT:
“Then I can probably understand a few more things, and maybe pick [out] some differences and try and help out from what I learnt at Red Bull. There’s no hiding that they were a very good team, and very fast and build a good car.”
But after 10 rounds, Renault lies fifth in the standings… 21 points behind customer squad McLaren, which has no doubt built a better chassis, and has the momentum behind it.
And it’s going to be a tough ask for Renault to overhaul the British team, with its new parts not yet matching predicted gains.
Ensuring huge pressure, as the French marque attempts to make a step change, and regain momentum with the weight of history on its shoulders.
2019 marks four decades since Renault’s first F1 win, the stars aligning for French success... Jean-Pierre Jabouille winning on home soil at Dijon for Renault on Michelin tyres, and burning Elf fuel.
And while it was also an historic maiden victory by a turbocharged F1 car, the race is far better remembered for the relentless fight for second place between René Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve… the Canadian ahead at the chequered flag by just over two tenths.
It’s this history of success in F1 that the current race team must draw on whether it’s the 1977 RS01, the sport’s first-ever turbocharged car… or 1983’s RE40, Renault’s first carbon fibre chassis…
… the French marque has always been an innovator, leading to its most recent glories as a works effort, back-to-back world title doubles with Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006.
The squad, though, is keeping its feet on the ground… as special advisor Alain Prost said on the eve on the 2019 season.
SOUNDBITE (English) ALAIN PROST,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Sometimes we can have some better surprises. We have some big development during the year. So what’s going to happen on Sunday will be different in the middle of the year, and I hope at the end. But the progression is the clear objective.”
It’s time for Renault to up its game.