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Palmer Magnussen

Renault preview the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Palmer Magnussen

Renault team and drivers preview the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final round of the 21 Rounds 2016 Formula 1 World Championship, at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

Foreword by Cyril Abiteboul, managing director

Brazil was rather an eventful Grand Prix and the team has only just dried out from all the rain! The race gained a lot of attention and showed that Formula 1 is definitely a sport people like to talk about. From our perspective it was another race of lessons learnt; all aspects accumulated to assist us with our development for the future.

Abu Dhabi is our final Grand Prix in our rookie season as Renault Sport Formula One Team. It has been a tough 20 races so far on track, as we expected, but for us the story has been our real progress made behind the scenes.

In terms of our power unit this season we have taken a great step forward in terms of performance and reliability and that is something we expect to continue in 2017. In terms of the infrastructure at Enstone we’re making massive strides with our expansion programme progressing well. The first fruits of this expansion will be seen in next year’s car, the R.S.17.

On track in Abu Dhabi we want a strong and positive race to end the season. There will be a lot of attention at the front of the field as the Drivers’ Championship is decided, but for us a strong end to the year would be a good endorsement of all the hard work wrought over the last twelve months. We have faith that both Kevin and Jolyon will deliver what’s expected of them for the final time this season and for Kevin we wish him well for the future.

Vasseur’s Validation

As well as being the first season for Renault Sport Formula One Team it was the first season for Team Principal Fred Vasseur with an official F1 role. He gives his thoughts…

Are you surprised with how quickly the season has gone by?
FV: In a certain sense yes, who knows where all the time goes! We’ve certainly been busy in 2016, not only has there been the normal challenges of a race season – and a very long one at that – but we’ve been making and implementing plans for the future. It’s one task after the next so you can really feel that time flies. The season has been a long one and I think that the entire paddock will be glad come Sunday night in Abu Dhabi!

What has been the story of your season?
FV: There was a learning and discovery phase to start off with – getting to know people and their methods – and from this a feeling of mutual trust developed. The general atmosphere has been positive and very studious; we are working hard to progress and we are all focussed on the same objectives. Each week there is better collaboration and that’s an important aspect in the future success of the team. We’ve made real progress in 2016.

What have been your most memorable moments this season? What were the highs and lows?
FV: Scoring our first points in Sochi was an important milestone for the team and also a relief. Jolyon’s first point was equally important because it was the result of his hard work and another step forward. At the end of the day, being regularly in a position to score is more important than one-offs and we’ve made decent progress to getting to that position.

Have the sporting results met our hopes this season?
FV: Our on track performance has matched the reality of our competitiveness this season. At Enstone we’ve been very much in a re-construction phase, building the infrastructure and the R.S.16 was conceived very late relative to its opposition. On paper we knew that the season would be challenging, at the same time fate was in our own hands and early on in the season we decided to focus on 2017. That meant that the 2016 car had very little development and a big chunk of those developments were destined to look ahead at next year. That said, we are still racers so we pushed to be competitive wherever possible, it’s our blood; we wouldn’t have been able to have simply let go! It’s important to progress and to look at each detail that enables us to move forward with the factories or trackside.

What are your hopes for the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi?
FV: I’d like us to continue to work seamlessly as a team and to use even the last race of the season to learn lessons for next year.

What’s the outlook for the future?
FV: Progress. We’re excited about our new car and can’t wait to see it hit the track in February. We know our driver line-up: Jolyon is already part of the family and we look forward to be starting work with Nico at the end of his contract with Force India. I think that we have a strong line-up for what we need to achieve in 2017.

Any final words for Kevin?
FV: We’d like to thank him for his efforts this year as we know it hasn’t been always the easiest. We’d love to see him end his final race for us in the points and we wish him well for the future as he is a very talented driver.

Heading into his final race of his rookie season, Jolyon Palmer is ready to go all night long through the twists and turns of Yas Marina…

How’s your motivation heading into the final race of the season?
JP: It’s a nice feeling as I have my 2017 drive all sorted especially as I’m continuing with Renault Sport Formula One Team. I have every incentive to bow out this year with a good result, then work hard over the winter and come back next year stronger than ever.

What are your thoughts on Yas?
JP: It’s a track I know really well as I’ve done a lot of GP2 Series laps there. I completed my first-ever Formula 1 test with Force India and then sadly it was only a few FP1 laps there last season for Lotus F1 Team. It’s a nice track and it’s a nice place to end the season. It’s a glamourous event with the additional aspect of racing into the night which is really atmospheric.

Chemical Brothers, Lionel Richie or Rhianna?
JP: Lionel Richie, all night long.

Just how difficult were conditions in Brazil?
JP: It was extremely difficult! I started in sixteenth so that was behind a lot of spray from the cars ahead, then after a pit stop we were right at the back for the second restart. Visibility was really poor and I couldn’t see a thing. You’d come up the hill to the start-finish and there was so much standing water that the car just aquaplaned everywhere. We saw so many incidents as it was a real challenge to keep the car on track. It was a real shame that I hit Daniil Kvyat, but I couldn’t see him until it was too late.

What are your feelings looking to 2017?
JP: I’m really very happy to be continuing with the team, especially as it will be for my third season working with Enstone. I’ve learnt a lot this year and I think the second half of this year has been pretty strong. I enjoying working with everyone in the team and I know we’re going places in the future.

How has it been racing with Kevin in 2016?
JP: Kevin’s a good guy, a great racer and fun to work with. I think we’ve worked well together this year when we’ve known we’ve had to push to get the most out of the car. I think he’ll do well at Haas and I’m looking forward to racing against him in different coloured cars next season.

What are your thoughts on the team’s driver line-up for 2017?
JP: Obviously I’m very happy indeed about 50% of the line-up! I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know Nico yet so I’m looking forward to this happening. Everything I’ve heard about him has been positive and I have faith in the team to have chosen the right drivers for next year and beyond. He’s a highly-rated and hard-working driver so I think we’ll have a positive line-up.

Having been part of the team since 2015, what are the differences you’ve seen this season?
JP: It really feels like a much bigger team this year and you do feel part of a far greater entity. The amount of resources and the investment coming in is really quite notable. Renault have come back in as they want to be at the front. You can really feel the buzz in the factory and even at the track – where it’s been a tough season in terms of results – everyone’s been pushing really flat out to make the most of what we’ve got and also get all the foundations in place for the future.

What are your plans for the off-season?
JP: I have a busy few weeks wrapping up the year after Abu Dhabi, then Christmas at home and New Year in Thailand. There’s plenty of training planned amidst this, but I’m really looking forward to getting a decent break after 21 races this year.

What can you say about next year’s car?
JP: I’ve seen the wind tunnel model and it looks awesome! It’s going to be a great looking car. I’ve driven it on the sim and it’s quick. Of course, the new rules are the same for everyone, and we won’t know how we stack-up against our rivals until we hit the track in Barcelona, but the speeds are higher, the car is more challenging to drive and I think it’s going to be a great spectacle when we race next year.

Heading into race 21 of 21 of the 2016 Formula 1 season, Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell gives his thoughts on where we’re at.

What are the challenges of Yas Marina Circuit?
BB: There are no particular challenges, rather it’s quite a generic track in terms of its requirements. The track surface is smooth, so ride is not too much of an issue – which is a positive for us considering the R.S.16 which can struggle somewhat on bumpier surfaces. In terms of layout, there’s a mix of long straights – a couple connected by a chicane – with some twisty stuff too meaning there’s a bit of everything.
More particular is the timing of the race, as it takes place under twilight conditions. FP1 and FP3 take place earlier in the day than qualifying and the race, so they’re not terribly representative of competitive conditions. The track temperature decreases quite a bit after the sun sets so we need to consider this when determining a set-up for the car, making it less straight-forward than at other race meetings.

What are the hopes for the team for Abu Dhabi?
BB: As a start we’re expecting far more predictable weather conditions than we saw in Brazil, so it would be really nice to have both cars in Q2 and to end the race adding to our points tally for the year. It’s a realistic hope if everything goes our way over the weekend, including some misfortune for others! It would be a tremendous boost for the team going into the winter.

What was learnt in Brazil?
BB: It was a wet and exciting race and the first time we’ve run around there on Pirelli wet tyres so that was something of an unknown for everyone. It was essentially a wet tyre race for most of the time, albeit with some periods when the inters came to the fore. Kevin in particular looked good on the intermediates later on in the race, so there were some positive lessons learnt. It was unfortunate Jolyon retired from the race, but when you see the on-board footage with the level of visibility it’s not surprising an incident like that happened due to the sheer amount of spray. We did evaluate if there was sufficient time to repair the car under the red flag conditions but there was just too much work to be done in the time available. We never stop learning, both with our current car and also how we work and approach race weekends, so there was plenty accumulated in the knowledge bank for the future.

How would you sum-up Renault Sport Formula One Team’s first season?
BB: This year was not solely about sporting achievement, it’s been about building for the future so we can create a better car and build a better, stronger team. We’ve seen that Viry have taken a huge step forward with the power unit, and Viry has also been adapting to its new status as being part of a works team rather than a stand-alone power unit supplier. Enstone, however, has seen the bulk of the changes and off-track growth has been the key message from this season. The foundations for the future have been laid.

What happens after Abu Dhabi?
BB: We’re rather occupied with producing the R.S.17! We are also continuing unabated with recruitment and replenishing the infrastructure at Enstone. There’s lots of new equipment arriving almost on a daily basis and parking spaces are becoming a yet more scarce commodity! The challenge is not only developing and building next year’s car, but building and developing the organisation in unison with this. Anyone who wants to see the commitment of the team and Renault to this project should come visit Enstone.