Renault ‘naive’? I think not

I’ve heard some rumors of challenges at the leadership level of Renault Sport F1’s program but I’ll let those remain in the rumor file for now. What I am intrigued by is the choice of words that Cyril Abiteboul chose when describing the team’s approach to the 2016 season over at AUTOSPORT:

“It’s fair to say this season has been much more difficult than we anticipated, and to a certain degree another demonstration of the pace at which Formula 1 is evolving,” Abiteboul said.

“The car we are using is not from this year, but more or less designed in the winter of 2014-15, to which we added at the last moment the forced introduction of the Renault engine.

“So clearly it wasn’t the best gestation you could imagine, but still we could not imagine that in 18 months there would be such a gap from this car to the others.

“Maybe we were a bit naive, but that’s behind us now

“What’s important is to keep our head down on a race-by-race basis and be optimistic and bullish about next year to try and keep the motivation high for the two teams [chassis in Enstone, engine in Viry], and to continue to point in the right direction.”

When the team announced its takeover of Lotus F1, it, as the article states, downplayed expectations and knowing that this was an older chassis design that had to be fitted with a Renault engine was always going to be difficult on the best of weekends. Why the word “naïve” then? Surely Renault didn’t feel they could morph this old chassis and new, lower-powered engine into a top five car did they?

I had low expectations of the team as accurately set at the time of the car launch but I wouldn’t have classified their attempt at developing and scoring some points as naïve. I think it is the best they could do given the circumstances they are in.

What I would consider naïve is their 2017 chassis and engine development that would do anything less than make them a continual points-scoring team. I think that would signify a concerning lack of talent in the design and engineering departments and even in that case, I would have some patience as they, Lotus at the time, were seriously poached of many of their key ingredients in the shop—James Allison being one of them.

In my mind, and I don’t think it’s naïve, this team has the pedigree, resources and historic precedent of winning races and titles and I believe that, given time, they will make their way back toward the front of the grid. The question might be, am I being naïve in thinking that Renault isn’t in this for the long term and thus they are impatient for immediate results?

It’s going to take time and a big regulation change could work for or against them in 2017, we’ll have to wait and see how they do. For me, it is important that France get back into the Formula 1 game with a team, driver and race and I they have one of the three so let’s be patient while they re-tool their engineering and design staff, allocate their resources and re-gain their footing in a sport they’ve dominated many times.

Cyril’s comments sound like those of a man under pressure for sure but I can’t imagine that Renault have expectations that this year’s car will perform much better than it is…I certainly didn’t.


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I’m not sure that it is the lower power of the Renault that is causing the problem (Red Bull are managing OK), it is probably the different installation requirements (cooling, size shape of the ancillaries) when compared to the Mercedes that the chassis was designed around that is limiting their ultimate pace.
Hopefully 2017 and a clean sheet of paper for the chassis design to the new regulations will help get them back to competitiveness.