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Cyril Abiteboul

Abiteboul: We know name of the champion before season starts

Cyril Abiteboul

Renault F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul has made some startling comments ahead of the new season, highlighting the state of competition in Formula 1 and lamenting the fact that Mercedes have been so dominant that predicting the 2018 world champion is a foregone conclusion.

Speaking ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Abiteboul told La Gazzetta dello Sport, “It cannot go on like this. It cannot be that we already know the name of the world champion before the season starts.”

“That is not healthy and serves no one. So we need to work closely with Liberty Media but also with Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, and so forth to make changes.”

“But we must do so without damaging the DNA of Formula One. The perception in the public has changed and the recipe of yesteryear no longer works in a world that constantly changes. Now the focus must be on sport, not technology.”

Renault power their own team as well as Red Bull and McLaren. Collectively the three teams had mixed fortunes during testing, however, opinion is that Red Bull have handy race pace, while Renault themselves are still nowhere near the top three teams.

Their new customer McLaren struggled with ‘growing pains’ as they acclimatised to their new engine package and partner.

Power unit reliability was also a problem with both Carlos Sainz (Renault) and Fernando Alonso (McLaren) losing out on the final morning of testing as their respective crews changed engines.

Abiteboul explained, “We are starting with a conservative approach. The focus is on reliability, which is important because we have a completely different car with a new gearbox, suspension and so on. A huge jump.”

“Last year, we improved from ninth place to sixth, so we need to continue. We are on course for our goals in terms of reliability and performance, but that’s just a starting point.”

Renault differs from Mercedes and Ferrari because they are more often than not beaten by their customers as Red Bull and Toro Rosso (to an extent) have done over the past four years. Mercedes’ and Ferrari’s customers have never won a race during the hybrid turbo era.

Abiteboul continued, “We consider Red Bull and McLaren as partners, not customers. We guarantee that everyone is treated the same. But this is something we could think about when it comes to the new engine generation for 2021.”

The relationship with Red Bull and Renault has become fractious over the years, a divorce once a very real possibility, ut the two organisations tolerate one another as they work towards the same goal. But there is no love lost between them.

Red Bull are waiting to see how Honda perform with their Toro Rosso junior team before committing to Renault for 2020 and beyond.

Asked if he felt Red Bull may ditch Renault, Abiteboul replied, “It’s too early to say that, but I just underline one thing – there was not a season without intensive discussions with them, and yet we are together 12 years later.”

“I am not saying that we will be in 2019 as well, but we want clarity on that cooperation as soon as possible,” he added.

Big Question: Do you know who the 2018 F1 world champion will be?