Abiteboul: Red Bull in a position to fight for the championship

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 28: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB13 TAG Heuer on track during day two of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 28, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // P-20170228-01460 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul is confident that his company’s power unit will be a front-runner this season and predicts that Red Bull will be title contenders this year.

Speaking in the aftermath of Barcelona preseason testing, Abiteboul said of Red Bull, “Clearly they will be in a position to fight for the championship. We know that and we will be doing our utmost in order to enable them to do that. We have to start with a reliable engine for race one.”

This is a ballsy prediction by the Renault chief as their engines were hardly a model of reliability in Spain. Compared to Mercedes and Ferrari they perhaps had the pace, but certainly lacked the bullet-proof reliability of the pace setters.

Red Bull, with their TAG Heuer branded power units, Toro Rosso who have returned to the fold and Renault themselves all had problems during the course of the eight days with their respective power units.

Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost made it clear after the final test, “One weak point is the reliability, as we’ve had too many issues over these two weeks.”

Abiteboul acknowledged, “We have to focus on reliability with special attention on the ERS, which is already well underway.”

But insisted, “I think we are on target, and even maybe I think exceeding that target, subject to reliability. We came into this with a whole new engine architecture, not just in terms of ICE but also ERS.”

“That means quite a great challenge, particularly in terms of reliability, and there is no surprise. We were expecting to encounter some difficulties – we had those difficulties that materialised.”

“But the good news is that we are not doing that for nothing, meaning that the performance is there when we are try to extract the performance,” added Abiteboul.

Will Red Bull challenge for the 2017 F1 world title? Will reliability haunt Renault in the season ahead?