Renault preview the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, Round 2 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Shanghai International Circuit.
Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul: “To illustrate that the 2017 season is well and truly underway, we now head to China for the start of the first back-to-back combination of races.”
“Race one in Australia showed that we have the pace but not necessarily the complete execution with the R.S.17. We definitely had potential to finish in the points at Albert Park, so that is what we should have achieved.”
“Clearly, this latest generation Formula 1 has intensified the need to deliver at maximum potential in every regard. We need to ensure that the car is in the right place at the right time, whether that our strategists finding the best clear air on track, our mechanics and every component on the car is faultless, our pit stops occurring as quickly as possible and our power unit is being harnessed in the most efficient manner possible. We must always deliver at the top of our game.”
“At short term, the main point is reliability. We didn’t have any ERS but we did experience other issues – most notably Jolyon’s brakes in the race – so we clearly have work to do. The big positive we take from Melbourne is that we have the pace to be where we want to be: fight for points. If we do everything right, we will fight for fifth place in the championship by the end of the season.”
“The performance of the power unit seems to be delivering at the level we expected and we know there is more to come. In due course we will revert to the 2017-specification MGU-K and we will also introduce upgrades but this will only happen if we achieve the reliability level we need.”
“In China we want to achieve what we didn’t in Australia; make it into Q3 and finish in the points. It’s a completely different circuit and last year it wasn’t a great race for us so we want to do much better.”
“China is important for Formula 1 and it’s important for Renault. It’s a market of growth for Renault with Formula 1 providing part of the framework for this growth. We will have strong activations off track and then following the Grand Prix we will present something entirely new and forward-looking at the Shanghai Motor Show.”
“Motorsport is an area of exciting development in China with plans to double the number of FIA certified circuits over the coming decade. Renault Sport is contributing to this growth with our Road to Champion programme in conjunction with Dongfeng Renault Automotive Company and Formula Racing Development, our partner for Asian Formula Renault. Over 40,000 drivers have already applied to be part of the 2017 programme so it’s a very exciting initiative. Our 2016 winner, Marcus Song Xu Jie, will be joining us in Shanghai as will Renault Sport Academy driver Sun Yue Yang.”
“Closer to home we have a new appointment at Enstone with Naoki Tokunaga appointed as Chief Transformation Officer from April 1. Naoki has most recently served as Technical Director at Viry and was previously Deputy Technical Director at Enstone so he knows both our operations intimately. His new role is in line with our evolving structure as we adapt to the current needs. We have now reached the 600 mark in terms of headcount at Enstone so there has been a significant increase in resource over the past 15 months.”
After the R.S.17’s first race, Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester looks to Shanghai with a sense of optimism.
What’s the general feedback after the first race? NC: We feel we have made a good step forward since last year. The R.S.17 is able to fight in the mid-field. We need to improve the car balance which will come with track time. We are still learning how to get the best out of the car under the new regulations and there is a lot of potential to come.
What’s on the must try harder list? NC: We are very early in the development curve so there’s a lot of improvement to come across the board, both with car components and how we get the best out of it in terms of set-up. We didn’t get the set-up balance in the sweet spot in Albert Park and that affects how much the drivers can extract from the car as well as how it uses the tyres. We need to focus on the strategy lessons learnt as finding clean air to make the most of your tyre strategy looks to be even more important than before. We need to focus on our pit stops. There are also a number of minor improvements we can make to the car. There’s a big to-do list.
How did the 2017 driver line-up work in Melbourne? NC: Nico is new to us and he is a very quick driver with precise feedback and knows what he wants from the car. A lot of his feedback was echoed by Jolyon which makes the development path more straightforward. Jolyon was very unlucky with a difficult weekend and we didn’t give him a car that was working properly and it affected him in qualifying and in the race. We have rectified the problem for China.
What’s the challenge of the Shanghai International Circuit? NC: China is an interesting circuit in terms of layout. It’s quite a demanding circuit in terms of power – especially with the long back straight. It is a relatively smooth circuit so easier to setup for in terms in terms of ride than Melbourne. As usual we will need to trade off downforce and drag to arrive at the optimum wing level. We will continue to learn more about the tyres which seem very durable.
A second shy of the points in Melbourne, Nico Hülkenberg is determined to finish higher in Shanghai.
What is your frame of mind heading to China and Shanghai? NH: I’m going to be pushing all the way for points. Australia was slightly frustrating as we could have done better with the pace we had in the car but traffic was an issue for most of the race. Our tyre strategy didn’t help us either. It looks like we’re in the midfield with some of our rivals slightly ahead, but certainly in reach, and Shanghai is a very different track from Albert Park, so let’s see what happens.
What’s your take on racing the Shanghai International Circuit? NH: The track is famous for the never-ending turn-one / turn two combination. It’s a tricky corner because it’s easy to go in too hot, especially during qualifying, and it’s a corner that eats the front-left tyre. This combination really sucks you in as the corner goes on a long time after a really fast entry, but you are shedding speed thereafter as it gets tighter and tighter in a corner that seems to go on forever before spitting you out into the downhill, tight turn three. Historically, looking after the tyres has been hard work because turn 13 is another long right-hander that takes even more life out of them. The tyres and the cars are very different this year so we’ll have a lot to learn on Friday this year. The rest of the lap has a bit of everything from low-speed to high-speed, which makes it challenging to find a balanced set-up. There’s a big long straight where you have enough time to complete your tax return and have an expresso as you’re going in straight line with your foot hard down for so long, then you wake up and you’re hard on the brakes. It’s really important to get your braking right there as it’s a pretty important corner.
What are your thoughts one race in with your new team? NH: I feel totally at home and I know we can deliver good things together. It’s clearly a big operation at the start of a long adventure and it’s great to be part of this. Everyone’s working hard together and I know we can achieve great things in the future.
After a frustrating Australian Grand Prix Jolyon Palmer is aiming for more laps and a better vibe in Shanghai
What’s the plan for China? JP: It’s a clean slate approach for me as Australia was a bit of a shocker. Fortunately the team were able to find the particular gremlin which affected me over the weekend so I’m heading to Shanghai as if it’s my first race of the season. Nico’s shown the race potential so let’s get out there and make points happen.
What do you need? JP: More time in the car is all that’s needed to lead to a much better weekend. It’s as simple as that. Albert Park was a really frustrating start to the season so I’m looking to get more laps on the board and more progress in the race. Obviously, there were many factors out of my hands in Australia, so the team’s checked over the car very carefully to ensure we don’t see a repeat of any of the same issues. From my side, I’ll be avoiding the walls very keenly too!
What are your thoughts of the Shanghai International Circuit? JP: It’s a track made up of a long first corner, some fast corners in the middle sector and then a super-long back straight. To put a perfect lap together is not easy as there are a lot of different sections. We’ve seen some good races there in the past, degradation has been historically high – especially on the front left because of the long right-hand corners – so it will be interesting to see how the latest rubber fares.
Are you looking forward to driving the R.S.17 around there? JP: We should really get a keen appreciation of the downforce. In the first corner we should be able to attack with a lot more speed – and the entry to it should be pretty fruity. The middle section should also put a smile on our faces. Every track we visit this year will be exploring new limits and China should be a great example of this.
Other than the racing, what else do you look forward to in Shanghai? JP: There are very passionate fans in China so I’m looking forward to returning and meeting them again.