During this slow news period of December, TJ13 looks to an interesting interview published this morning by Auto Motor und Sport with Renault Boss Cyril Abiteboul.
Please bear in mind, this is a direct translation using Google Translate so there maybe some grammatical errors :-
INTERVIEW WITH RENAULT SPORTING DIRECTOR CYRIL ABITEBOUL
“Reduce backlog by 50 percent”
Renault sports director Cyril Abiteboul looks back on a year of ups and downs. He tells us where Renault is, what is good and what needs to be improved.
What was the season 2018 from Renault’s point of view: good, mediocre, bad?
Abiteboul: It was a good season. But also a season of joy and frustration. We spent most of the season on the pitch, which was our goal. From GP Spain to Abu Dhabi we were fourth. It was a season in which we continued to build our team and improve collaboration in Viry-Chatillon and Enstone.
All our development capacities have been improved. We were able to convince Daniel Ricciardo of our project and have put together with him and Hülkenberg for 2019 one of the best driver pairings in the field.
How important was the 4th place for inner peace?
Abiteboul: He was important for motivation. It was important for us to be the first team behind the top 3 and to have scored twice as many points as last year. But now we have to look ahead. We can not deny that we lose pole position for one to one and a half seconds. That is a cause for concern.
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Renault has climbed from 9th to 6th and 4th since 2016. How long will it take to beat the fourth place?
Abiteboul: It’s hard for me today to set goals for next year. That depends in sports always a bit of the power of the other off. But if the curve is up like ours, you want this trend to continue.
We may not succeed in terms of the World Cup position, but we want to narrow the gap to the top. Let’s wait and see what happens with Red Bull and. Red Bull never tires of telling how good Honda is compared to us. May I state that Toro Rosso is still behind us?
How close do you have to catch up with the top teams?
Abiteboul: At the moment we are back 1.5 percent in the lap time. We should reduce that by 50 percent. We do not want to be outclassed next year in the .
Red Bull has shown that you can win with the Renault engine. Is the main deficit accordingly with the chassis?
Abiteboul: Absolutely. The chassis makes the biggest contribution to our backlog. That’s why we’ve changed the structures and operation of the chassis department in Enstone. Marcin Budkowski has been responsible for this since the middle of the year.
That may not pay off tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow. The engine lacks about 15 to 20 kilowatts in the race, which under certain can be made up for with the Red Bull chassis. In training, we estimate our deficit at 40 kilowatts.
That’s significant. With a customer engine from Mercedes or Ferrariwe would have qualified for seventh place in Abu Dhabi. Which also shows that we have a better chassis than our competitors.
But not as good as the three top teams. Therefore, the first focus is on engine development. I do not want to have to say next year that we missed too much in qualifying. There is no reason why we should not close the gap to Mercedes and with the engine over the winter . It will take a little longer with the chassis.
Why does the Renault work better on tight bends than on fast bends?
Abiteboul: First of all, there are more and more fast corners, because the cars constantly gain downforce and mechanical grip. In tight corners we are absolutely in tune with music , but we lose too much in passages like Turn 7 in Interlagos or Turn 20 in Abu Dhabi. Long, fast corners.
We lose a lot of ground there. We’re talking about three to four tenths, even in comparison to HaasF1. That’s the characteristic of our car. It has aerodynamic instability from corner entry to corner exit. That’s why we look better on some tracks and worse on others.
This is also the difference of 7th place and 14th place. This problem is a bit favored by the current regulations. Let’s see if it’s the same with the new Aero rules next year.
Nico Hülkenberg believes that the top teams are the decisive step ahead of everyone else in understanding this problem. What do you think about it?
Abiteboul: I think he’s right. But we must not believe that our car suddenly gets better if we change any particular part. Nicos opinion may have been influenced by the fact that last year at we found a lot of time with a modification. The underbody at Silverstone really got us moving forward.
This development step did not happen this year. What we need to improve is understanding the car and where its limits lie. That’s why we change the organization in the aerodynamics department and also our measurement methods. We need a better balanced car between slow and fast corners.
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What can Daniel Ricciardo bring along with his speed and experience?
Abiteboul: His laughter and his positive attitude. That may have been a bit absent for our team. Sometimes you need a bit of fresh wind and energy. It certainly has its reasons why Red Bull Ricciardo did not allow us to test our car in Abu Dhabi.
They probably do not want him to give us any good tips early on in which direction we can improve the car. All the beating that Red Bull puts in our way shows me that we are heading in the right direction.
If you had the budget cap to determine, where would you be?
Abiteboul: Exactly where Liberty wants us. That’s about the budget we’re operating on and about 60 percent less than what Mercedes is spending. That’s a handicap. But when the budget cap comes, this handicap becomes a strength.
To catch up with what Mercedes is currently spending would be a huge challenge. The numbers that the top teams spend are unacceptable. We have to protect these teams from themselves.