With the deal sealed between Red Bull and Honda, Renault find themselves without their high maintenance customer team but this change suits the ever growing Factory team in Enstone according to Renault.
Divorce is rarely settled amicably between former long term partners, and no doubt we’ll see some story’s emerging from Red Bull and Renault over the coming months.
In the German press today, a rather insightful exclusive interview by Motosport Total and Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul reveals how the change will effect the French manufacturer.
The big news this week was the move from Red Bull to Honda, what effect does that have on Renault, which now equips two rather than three teams?
In concrete terms, it has not had much of an impact – we’ve been involved with Red Bull for twelve years, so we knew how to work together extremely well, the processes had worked well, the communication channels had worked well.
On the other hand, Red Bull was a pretty big and demanding team that always had high expectations, which sometimes required additional services from our guys.
This meant they had to make compromises between the request and the natural priority of Enstone’s wishes, especially what Engines and chassis integration, we’ve often spent some time and energy to fulfil their sometimes fancy desires, but now we can focus [on Renault], which is basically what’s going to change.
We also need to think about rejoining the team trackside, the people who joined the Red Bull team at the track, but that’s no big problem. Of course, we had revenue, but equipping such a big team with motors also came at a cost.
What were unusual wishes that you addressed?
We know that Red Bull is focused on aerodynamic optimisation, and if I say that’s a downside, I mean it’s from an engine manufacturer’s point of view, but we understand it on the global optimisation of performance.
It’s always a big challenge, a compromise between finding the optimum of one and the optimum of the other, which has sometimes really caused problems, but things have improved over time.
The worst was probably 2014. We did not do a good job with the cooling and often talked about the position of the exhaust because their aero…
Look at a Red Bull and look at a Renault: you can see that the Aero of the cars is different, the Red Bull is a lot better, that’s obvious, and that’s a huge challenge for the engine side.
Now we do not have to worry about that anymore, we’re developing the engine for the Renault and talking to McLaren, but when we had to find compromises between McLaren, the factory team, and Red Bull, sometimes we honestly lost a lot of time, it could be confusing.
Are you surprised that Renault came as a reference to McLaren on the chassis and not the other way around?
You can not say that, right now our car is a bit better than the McLaren, but none of us can boast of being the reference, the references are the cars up front – including Red Bull This should be our priority – and not knowing who of McLaren or Renault has the best, worst, or least serious chassis, we should look ahead, not back.
Renault’s restructuring – when you bought the team there were 475 employees, at the end of last year it was 620. What’s the situation now?
It’s between 620 and 700. We want to reach 700 at the end of the year, at the moment it’s around 650, but we’ve increased the staff in Enstone by more than 50 percent over the past three years It takes a lot of work, not just financially.
You have to take care of it, figure out the needs, write job postings, hire people, select them, integrate them, and make sure the group continues to work well together – that’s a huge job!
Often I explain that this is part of all our trackside activities because it’s not just a phrase but a reality, and we spend a lot of time building the team right now, especially Bob Bell’s goal as chief technical officer, who in a sense was away from the day-to-day work of chassis design, which is actually the responsibility of Nick Chester.
However, by the end of 2018, we will reach the end of our original three-year plan from 2016 to 2018.
We will have achieved our goals in team building and our athletic goals, of course we are still aware that we still have a second on the top teams but we have to ask ourselves the question: what is the plan for the next three years, so from 2019 to 2021, so that we are on course to fight for the championship in 2021?
Alain Prost is no longer involved in Formula E. Will he be more involved in Formula One?
No, he has the same role, he’s an adviser to Renault Sport Racing, especially the drivers, he thinks about the rules, interacts with partners, media and officials he knows very well, his role does not change.
Adrian Newey does not have a new contract with Red Bull yet. Could you be interested?
I have a lot of respect for what he has done and is still doing, I do not think he will be without a contract, but rather, I think he is extremely critical for Red Bull and Aston Martin on a number of projects.
On the other hand, we have a strong, established structure that I fully trust, Bob, Marcin Budkowski, who has taken over the overall management of Enstone.
Nick Chester, Rob White, that’s it, we have the right structure to get the job done, I think, now we have to use it.
How do you rate the duel between Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz?
Currently Nico is in the lead, the numbers are clear, but we can say that Carlos does a good job, achieving his goals.
Being well integrated into the team and making up for Nico when he has a bad race He made no points in two consecutive races – Baku and Barcelona – once it was his fault, not once, and Carlos was always there to score points for the team.
Both are able to get into the top ten on a regular basis, make no mistakes, do the same analysis of the car, and thus drive the team in the same direction in the development and set-up of the car good, but we’ll be looking at it even more to ask ourselves questions about the future.
The questions are: Is this the line-up for years to come?
Nico is contractually bound to us at least until next year. Carlos is more complicated because he’s borrowed from Red Bull this year.
Paying attention to two things: how Carlos’s performance is developing and how the driving situation at Red Bull is evolving, and we know it can have an impact on Carlos’s availability in the coming year.
If there are alternatives – Carlos should not be available next year – next year’s pairing is something I want to anticipate as quickly as possible.
Daniel Ricciardo said that he would not rule out a move to Renault.
I do not want to make a statement about that quote. I’m just saying that we have to look at alternatives because we know that we do not have complete control over Carlos’ future at Renault.
We may not have the future between Carlos and Red Bull but I also want us to stay focused on one thing: to produce the best possible car.
We still have work to do.
I know that if we deliver the best possible car and show everyone that we’re making progress – and we’ve had that for a few years now – then people will be interested in us, including the drivers… The best drivers.
We should stay focused on our goal.
Oliver Rowland left the team because you told him he would not have a chance to get a cockpit in the short term, does that mean that even someone like Jack Aitken has no chance, even if he should be good in Formula 2?
This is a very good question, and first of all, I am pleased that Oliver has respected our honesty, transparency and clarity towards him, because we live in an environment where people tend to keep uncertain situations to themselves rather than clarify them.
I did not want him to lose time, we offered him a developmental role that he declined.
Our academy is a cornerstone of our development, and looking at our drivers, it’s fair to say that it’s not just drivers who occupy just one place, but the academy still needs time to deliver drivers who think so.
However, our system is currently missing something: the connection to another Formula 1 team that can accommodate a rider – Red Bull has that with Toro Rosso, Mercedes with Force India and sometimes Williams.
That’s one of the reasons why the relationship with Red Bull makes no sense for our new goals – especially when it comes to rearing our riders – I do not see myself asking Helmut (Marko) for his opinion.
We’re not going to do it with McLaren, it’s too early, but if we think about our customer engine strategy from 2021 onwards, it’s clear to me that with the customer is a driver from our Academy.
When Renault entered Formula One, they wanted to go on the podium in 2018 and claim the title in 2020. Now they have the title on 2021. Have the goals changed?
This is a moving goal, we need to be able to fight the top teams in 2020.
Everyone has that expectation, and I’ll be completely honest: if I can’t see the one-second gap between us and the top teams change soon.
As the season does not become smaller, it is worrying, and it shows the current situation in Formula One and how resources are organised and structured.
I’m sorry I’m talking about it, but it’s the reality, it’s an arms race, whoever’s fighting for the podium has the biggest resources these days.
We have to work to increase our resources, and we have to work the rules because I do not think it’s healthy if there’s only a correlation in Formula One between spending and success on the track.
By then we have to be able to take advantage of opportunities, one has already slipped through our fingers.
Podium finishes were the target this year, and in Baku we had a chance of one – and it slipped out of our hands.
We can not rule out a podium, but I have to admit that I do not believe that we will achieve a podium on our own in 2018.
We must resolutely go to our medium term goal, and that is 2020, to fight the top teams in 2021.