There are mixed signals coming from Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul who acknowledges his team is “not in a happy place” but at the same time explains how his organisation’s failings are a result of the championship battle between Ferrari and Mercedes and that their chassis is progressing, but not. Go figure…
Last week, backed by the team’s ambassador Alain Prost, Nico Hulkenberg warned his team that if they “snooze they lose” and, after a below-par Japanese Grand Prix, Carlos Sainz pointing to lack of horsepower as a problem.
After the weekend at Suzuka, Abiteboul acknowledged there were problems and has now delivered a verbose, and at times cryptic, explanation to MN on the state of his team and their power unit supply.
With regards to the power deficit, Abiteboul explained, “We see that we are in a very tight midfield with most of the cars around us benefiting and tracking the development of the top teams Mercedes/Ferrari – who really are in an arms race for the championship.”
“In my opinion, we are almost a collateral damage. We are seeing the collateral consequence and collateral effect of Ferrari having had at some point an upper hand on Mercedes, and then a very strong rate of development by Mercedes to catch up again.”
“Under the current regulations, this is having a positive impact on all of the other teams, so Force India, Haas and Sauber have gained from that fight between the two. We are in isolation. It is not an issue because we are a manufacturer, we have full accountability and full responsibility, but we need to get everything to progress.”
Consider that Red Bull have the same power unit, albeit differently configured, bolted to their chassis and that Max Verstappen ended Q2 1.7 seconds up on Carlos Sanz in the Renault. In fairness, the RB14 was more like a second better than the RS18 in Japan.
Despite the deficit to the benchmark car on the grid, Abiteboul sees the ‘cryptic’ upside, “The chassis is progressing, but the chassis it not progressing at a rate that can compensate for the rate of development of the top teams or for the lack of improvement of the engine, because the spec of the engine has not really changed since Montreal.”
“But in addition to that, the car may not be at its maximum potential because we have had a lot of evolutions. We may need to revisit some of them, and maybe we have some evolutions that are not working the way we want, so it is really hard to give you a definitive conclusion. But it is fair to say that we are not really in a happy place at the moment.”
Clearly, there appears to be a plan at Vichy as Abiteboul delivered a rallying cry of sorts, “We see that we cannot afford not to push massively on the engine development and we are currently looking at the targets for next year, and those targets will be extremely aggressive.”
“On the chassis side we need to accept that it is a long-term process and Enstone has grown very rapidly, ut it is not just about the size, it is about the way that people are interacting between each other, and Marcin [Budkowski] is now fully in command in Enstone.”
“He is driving the transformation plan for Enstone, which is not just a growth plan. I think we had up until now too much focus on growth: it is not just about growth, it is about efficiency and that will be the focus of Marcin for next year,” added the Renault team chief.