Renault team and drivers preview the season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Round 20 of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, at Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates.
Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul: “We go to Abu Dhabi aiming to finish this rollercoaster season on a high. This race is almost a championship in itself as we are in a tight battle with Toro Rosso and Haas, and everything is still to play for. Either one of us could finish between sixth and eighth position so we are being very careful with our preparations. We will have to combine an approach that is at the same time attacking, as we need five points more than Toro Rosso to get sixth, but also conservative as we are just two points ahead of Haas.”
“We can be positive about our prospects. Abu Dhabi will be the fourth race Nico and Carlos have worked together and we have had two double Q3 performances. They work well together and push each other in the right direction, allowing us to point our development accurately and accelerate elements that add performance to the car. Whatever the result this weekend, we already have the confidence of a strong driver line-up next season. Despite the importance of the weekend, we are also looking towards 2018 and notably the French GP. Given the high standard of the track and hospitality we will have a lot of VIPs from Renault and our partners at this event.”
Snatch and grab
With sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship now the target, Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell discusses the team’s approach to the season finale at Yas Marina.
How do you reflect on Brazil? Bob Bell: It was a big disappointment as we wanted both cars in the points, higher up than the tenth and eleventh we achieved. This result was frustrating as both cars qualified in the top ten. One car crossed the finish line in the points, showing that the potential is there. Carlos had a first lap incident where he sustained a decent chunk of aerodynamic damage to his floor. This cost him performance in the race, where he had a trickier run than Nico to keep pace. We had a particular emphasis on reliability in Brazil as we wanted to be sure both cars finished, and this did have an impact on performance.
What is the approach for the final round? BB: We will look at the balance of risk and reward with the aim of maximising our chances of overhauling Toro Rosso for sixth in the Championship. We’ll fight for every point.
What’s the verdict from testing 2018 parts in Brazil? BB: Nico’s Power Unit had elements relevant to 2018 and we also assessed chassis concepts. From an evaluation point of view, we completed all the tests we wanted on Friday with some positive answers and feedback. We’ve made strong progress in this area.
What have been the key areas of progress for the team over the season to date? BB: The performance of the car and our ability to extract it has improved a lot over the season. What we’ve failed to do is take that performance and convert it into points on a Sunday afternoon. There is no doubt how quick the car is and there has been a clear upward trend throughout the season on our improvements. Our understanding of what we need to do to make the car better has developed a lot and that will continue into next year.
What’s the progression been like at Enstone? BB: We have recruited more people who have the necessary understanding as well as an increase in the number of younger personnel, who are learning the trade. There is momentum building in all areas and that has led to the progressive improvement in performance. We want to carry that on into winter and through into next year. I get a great sense that the momentum in this team is building for the longer term and that’s what we’re interested in. Clinching sixth in the Constructors’ is important as this team wants to show progress en route to being successful and winning championships. It’s important to feel and build on this momentum.
Are you happy with what you’ve seen from the Nico-Carlos pairing? BB: Both are highly adept at giving us a clear direction to follow for the fundamental development path with the R.S.17. They see the same problems from slightly different angles, which is insightful. Carlos has settled in very quickly and works with his engineers very well. He’s been immediately on the pace. He’s a great team player and works well with Nico, they are both very mature. It’s key that they remain level-headed and keep progressing together. They are both clearly talented and very quick.
A fired-up Nico Hülkenberg is ready to end his maiden season with the team on a bright note.
What is Yas Marina like to drive? NH: The circuit itself is quite amazing and the facilities are really impressive. It’s a long lap with a weird rhythm so it’s key to get comfortable with the change of flow. The corners are a lot different to each other so it’s vital to find a good balance, get accustomed to the conditions and master it. Abu Dhabi is a really fun place for a season finale. I’ve finished in the top seven three times in the last three years so I’m looking forward to it and ready to fight for some points.
How do you reflect on Brazil? It’s certainly positive to pick up one point after such a frustrating run in recent months. In terms of pace, we weren’t as strong as we would like to be but we did the best we could. The Constructors’ Championship will go down to the wire for sixth in Abu Dhabi and I’m really relishing the challenge. The track should suit us better than Interlagos. It’s the season finale, there’s plenty at stake and that makes me very excited.
What’s been the story of your season? NH: This year has been about progress and development. I’ve got to know a new team, and one that has been developing strongly over the course of the year. We’ve made progress with the car and our performance. Of course, we’ve wanted more in terms of results, but I think we have put many things in place behind the scenes, which will enable us to fight for better positions in the future, and that’s always been the aim.
What’s your aim for the final Grand Prix of the season? NH: I head to Abu Dhabi hoping to score well. I want to kick back on Sunday night at Yas Marina with the team and celebrate a job well done.
Yabba Dhabi Do
Carlos Sainz will conclude his short and promising relationship with the R.S.17 as he heads out for his fourth time in Renault colours at the season finale.
What do you think of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix? CS: I enjoy that this race is at night, I’ve done well under the lights this year so it would be nice to repeat that form. The atmosphere is always good in Abu Dhabi as it’s the last race of the year which makes it quite a special event. The facilities are incredible there and it’s pretty cool to start the race in sunlight and finish at night time, I like that!
What are your thoughts after Brazil? CS: I left Brazil with a positive mindset as I’m starting to feel at home in the car and we head to Abu Dhabi with confidence and an aim for points. It’s going to be a tight fight in the championship for sixth, but we are ready for the challenge.
How do you look back on your first three races with the team? CS: There’s been a lot to learn but I think we’ve been able to face the challenge in a positive manner. It’s been an education for me to come to a manufacturer team, and there’s been a lot to do because of joining mid-season. I’m still on a steep learning curve with the car so I hope for another step forward in Abu Dhabi.
What are your goals for the final race? CS: Of course, I want to qualify and finish in the top ten. We’ve definitely had strong positives from every Grand Prix so far and I want to continue that to finish the year with a smile on my face.
Yas Marina has been hosting Grand Prix racing since 2009 and has featured the climax to five Formula 1 seasons. Drivers negotiate 21 corners in the desert with the race starting in daylight and finishing under the night sky. An underground pit lane as well as an on-track hotel are amongst the unique features it has to boast. Sector one is high-speed with sector two featuring two long straights with DRS overtaking opportunities. The final sector is technical with a number of right-angled turns.
T1: The first corner is medium speed – taken at around 150kph. Leading to the high-speed turns of two and three, both of which should be flat out in qualifying and only giving drivers something to think about when they have heavy fuel loads.
T2: A defining corner for set-up. This corner has the greatest need for front wing to eradicate understeer, which sets the wing level for the track.
T5-6: One of the bigger braking demands on the track, with drivers going from 300kph to 90kph for the left-right chicane.
T7: A second gear corner taken at around 70kph, strong engine pick-up is vital out of turn seven for a good entry onto the circuit’s longest straight, with the first of two DRS zones.
T8: With maximum speeds of around 330kph there is heavy braking down to second gear and around 80kph is required for turns 8-9. The kerbs are used aggressively through this combination so suspension compliance is beneficial and a good exit is critical.
Sector 3: After the long straights of the middle part of the lap, Sector 3 has a series of closely-spaced low and medium speed corners that stress the tyres, making the end of the lap tricky for the driver to manage.
T11: Another long straight sees the second DRS zone, with speeds well in excess of 300kph leading to another heavy braking zone for turn 11. The turn 11-13 sequence requires good change of direction from the car.
T15/16/17: A tricky, high-speed entry to Turn 17 where the drivers have to combine braking and cornering.
T18: A simple left-hander which goes under the chameleon-esque hotel feeding into another left-hander that is likely to see cars dancing with the wall.
T20: A medium/high speed corner leading to the last corner, from which it is a short burst to the finish line.
Power Unit Notes:
Yas Marina is a mid-range power track, but it is particularly hard on the ICE due to the long 1.2km back straight where the power unit will be at full throttle for 14secs.
Over 50% of the lap is spent at full throttle, with average speeds of 190kph, similar to the Circuit de Gilles-Villeneuve. Top speed will peak at over 330kph down the back straight between Turns 7 and 8. This may seem slow in comparison to the highs of Mexico and Brazil, but it’s just as impressive as the cars will be running medium to high downforce settings and the sea-level air is much denser than at high altitude.
Fuel consumption per km is the fifth highest of the season behind Melbourne, Montréal, Spielberg and Sochi. The first two sectors are relatively fuel efficient but the stops and starts of the final sector dramatically increase the consumption. It is increased further by the sea level altitude and running in the lower temperatures after sunset.