“Tall order” to catch Williams
Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul has admitted it is a “tall order” for the French manufacturer to catch and take fifth place from Williams to achieve its target for 2017.
Renault went into the season full of optimism with the target of finishing four places higher than they managed last season. The team has enjoyed a much stronger run of results this year and currently sits seventh in the constructor’s championship.
However, a double DNF in Mexico has made that a little harder as the team currently sits twenty-eight points behind fifth-placed Williams and six points behind Toro Rosso. Abiteboul told ESPN “The team remains confident and united, which is essential to maintain progress to the end of the season, and also for our preparations for 2018.”
“This season we set ourselves the goal of fifth in the constructors’ championship. Whilst achieving this is still mathematically possible, it is now a tall order after a race where we didn’t score points.” The Frenchman says that getting both cars into Q3 in Mexico highlighted the potential performance and that points were clearly within reach.
Carlos Sainz who made his debut for the team in Austin says that he believes Renault’s performance in recent races is proof that it has a car at its disposal that is capable of returning to the top ten in Brazil.
“Mexico was difficult — I had a high-speed spin early on in the race which hampered my running. After the last few races, I think we have a car that can be in the top ten. We need to keep both cars on track and aim for points again in Brazil. We need to fightback.”
Too aggressive with Mexico approach
Cyril Abiteboul has also been speaking about Renault’s engine development focus for next season, saying that it was too aggressive with their approach to the Mexican Grand Prix.
For the last two races, the French manufacturer brought a revised engine for the race, which featured development parts for 2018 as well as a gain two tenths per lap. However, in the race, three out of six of the Renault powered cars retired.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Abiteboul said, “We know the update is working, there is no doubt about that but it’s an update that is only bringing a portion of what we want to bring over the winter and 2018 has to be the focus now.”
This season Renault has failed to close the power deficit to Ferrari and Mercedes, however, it is hopeful that it can close the gap over the winter. Adding “The target for the winter is to close that gap for Sunday and to understand what we can do in terms of qualifying mode.”
Mercedes to try “new and interesting” concepts
Mercedes are to trial “new and interesting” concepts in the final two Grand Prix’s of the season. The team has wrapped up its fourth consecutive constructors’ and drivers’ championship already, despite the strong challenge from Ferrari.
In the team’s preview for this weekends Brazilian Grand Prix, they say “the first two test opportunities ahead of the new season, trialling new and interesting concepts.” Mercedes have pledged to be “a little bolder,” and to “experiment” with parts that they couldn’t have during the title race.
Team boss Toto Wolff said: “It might be tempting to think that, with both championships now secure, the pressure is off for the two remaining races of 2017.”
“Inside the team, we are looking at the next two race weekends as the first two grand prix’s of 2018. We have two races that we are determined to win in order to take that positive momentum into the winter.” The Austrian added they would not be backing off now the titles are sealed.
Wolff said both drivers should expect to win in Brazil but predicts Ferrari and Red Bull, will be legitimate contenders. Adding “Recent rounds have shown, winning grands prix is never easy. Red Bull have taken two victories in the past four races and, although we have claimed the other two, Ferrari remain formidable opponents.”
Red Bull looking to attack
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes the team moving the launch of next years car forward by five days will allow the team to go on the attack from the first race.
The British based team made a slow start this season because of wind tunnel correlation issues, however, since the summer they have managed to outscore Ferrari. Next season, to avoid a slow start the team will wait until the last moment to launch the car to maximise development.
Red Bull is bringing the deadline forward by five days to help them hit the ground running, with Horner believing that it will help get the ground running. He told Autosport “”We are focusing on a slightly earlier release target, which only involves about five days,” said Horner.
“But the design is so concertinaed and production schedules so tight, that those five days are actually pretty valuable in terms of being on the front foot rather than the back foot.” He added. Red Bull’s target is to go to the first test and do a hundred laps a day.
Red Bull has won two out of the last four races, which has given Horner confidence that the team can carry the momentum into 2018. “If we can take these learnings into next year’s car then hopefully we can start on a stronger footing than the second or so we were off in Melbourne at the beginning of this year.” He added.
McLaren takes confidence from Red Bull
McLaren has taken confidence from Red Bull’s victories this season that there is nothing to worry about when they switch to Renault power next season.
Despite Renault having their own reliability issues team bosses Eric Boullier and Zak Brown are adamant that they have seen nothing that worries them. Saying they actually are encouraged by the fact that the Renault engine has helped Red Bull to win two of the last four races.
Boullier, who is also Renault’s former team principal, told Motorsport.com “Fixing reliability is a challenge, but it is always easier than finding performance,” Boullier told Motorsport.com.
“What I just would like to take on board is that in Malaysia and Mexico, they were proper runaway wins.
“The Renault engine won two races in the last four races, and in a very fair and clean manner. So no concern at all.
Haas could benefit from driver swaps
Romain Grosjean says that the recent driver changes at Toro Rosso could help Haas leapfrog their rivals and gain position in the constructor’s championship before the end of the season.
The American team is currently eighth in the constructors, one point behind Renault and six points behind Toro Rosso with two races remaining. While Grosjean thinks Renault is too far head, he says Haas can take advantage of Toro Rosso’s inexperienced lineup.
He told ESPN “I think out of those teams, Renault is the faster one. They’ve got a really good car through to the end of the season. They’ve had a bit more of a difficult time in the races, which has allowed us to close the gap and keep them in sight.
“Toro Rosso is the one we can try to go for. They’re not performing better than we are, and they’ve got less experience amongst their drivers, so that should help us.” Grosjean says they are doing everything they can to get those positions.
Haas now has the target of higher than last year, though team principal Guenther Steiner says that sixth could be in reach because of Renaults reliability issues.
But added “It’s very difficult because we’re fighting with teams which are as good, if not better than us. Renault is a works team. They’ve got a lot of people working for them. They’ve made good progress over this year.”