Cyril Abiteboul: Monaco is a special race for everyone in the paddock, but particularly for Renault. We consider it our 'home' race in the absence of the French Grand Prix; we have a long-standing relationship with the ACM; the Formula Renault 2.0 runs alongside us in F1 and we have several high-level guests joining us. Naturally we hope to be able to put on a good show in this setting.
We definitely have reasons to be positive heading to this race: our race pace is improving and we had a successful test in Barcelona where we trialled a range of mechanical and aero upgrades that worked well. Alongside this we explored big upgrades to the power unit in particular and we need to capitalise on everything to maximise our performance now.
What are you hoping to see from the team in Monaco?
Fred Vaseur: We need to stay on the level of what we saw in Barcelona. Getting into Q2 - and trying to get both cars into Q2 - was a good step forward for us and I think that it would show the team's performance level. Having said that, the results are also dependent on what's happening during the races and we've seen that at the last GPs. For Monaco, if we can get into Q2, having both cars in the points is a real possibility.
What's the assessment of the Spanish Grand Prix?
FV: It was certainly a race where we were the best in terms of performance for both drivers so far and on Saturday we were only a few tenths off Q3. Unfortunately Kevin's incident on the first lap ruined his race. The race result probably didn't mirror the performance level we had in Spain. There is potential there and we look forward to showing it in Monaco.
What do you do when your drivers manage to make contact with each other on track?
FV: For our incident I didn't have to say anything at all, not to one nor the other! Kevin and Jolyon spoke to each other in a very open and honest manner afterwards and it was good to see them do that directly between the two of them. In my mind it's the best way to manage situations like these. We didn't lose anything as a team. The incident is firmly closed, there is nothing more to talk about.
Are you happy with the progress made at the test?
FV: We are very pleased with the progress made. We had two important aspects we worked on. The first was on the power unit side of things. We were pleased because we did 227 laps without any reliability issues. Additionally, we made progress on the driveability, an important aspect also. Performance-wise, we are equally happy with the steps made.
Looking at the chassis, we had a good list of things to test and that was in itself encouraging. These tests were very constructive and it was good to see the work done at the factory put on the car and be very positive on track. That's encouraging and motivating for all. We now need to introduce these evolutions as soon as possible starting in Monaco and Canada and hope that they'll enable us to make steps up in the pecking order.
Esteban ran on the first day of the test. Are you satisfied with the work he did?
FV: After a difficult start to the weekend with limited running in FP1 on the Friday, he did a very good day's work. Even though the test programme meant that the objective of the day was to follow the team's instructions, instead of setting a fast lap. He did a great job and the team were very pleased with Esteban at the end of the 105 laps he completed.
What do you need?
Bob Bell: Monaco's less about what's needed from the car, it's more about what's needed from the driver who needs to keep it on the track, keep away from the walls and let the circuit get faster and faster. The main focus is ensuring the drivers get as much time as possible to build their confidence on the circuit and learn from the track surface evolution.
Three tyres and a seriously evolving track means lots to do?
BB: It does leave us with a little more work to do as there is an extra compound to be thinking about, especially at a track where the surface evolves - and therefore how the tyre compound works with the surface changes. Monaco is prone to massive evolution and that is a big factor in set-up and strategy considerations.
BB: It used to be a circuit where you'd bolt on a lot of high downforce elements to the car but now a high downforce configuration is de rigueur in a lot of circuits so this isn't something we're so concerned with as a team anymore.
We do use revised suspension to give additional lock for Loews, but that's the same every year - it's not as if it's a surprise. As it's a low speed track, aero is of less relative importance, all we have to do is ensure the car is reasonably well balanced, the braking is good, the traction is strong, cooling is under control. It's really more about managing the car and giving the driver a predictable car without any surprises.
BB: 105 laps on the first day, 122 on the second gave us plenty to be working on. We ticked off everything we had planned to do. We weren't looking at particular headline-grabbing times, it was all about assessing the upgrades we had in a methodical manner.
What kind of challenges does the Monte Carlo circuit present for the R.S.16 and R.E.16 package?
Rémi Taffin: Monaco is the slowest circuit on the calendar so the demands on the car and power unit are very different to the previous event in Barcelona. We will work on providing good mechanical grip for the chassis, with high level wings and relatively soft suspension settings, while on the engine front we need to work on driveability in the lower rev range. It's not necessarily an 'engine' circuit, but getting the right set-up and a chassis and engine that is really dialled together can pay dividends in the overall lap time.
We heard that Renault was introducing a B-spec power unit in testing in Spain. What are the main differences to the power unit used since Australia?
RT: The power unit we have used since the first race in Australia was really a continuation of the work started in the 'Spec D' power unit we introduced at the tail end of 2015. We explored some concepts in that earlier iteration and the 2016 unit took them further, for example in the turbo. This new spec goes even further down the line and also includes significant modifications to the combustion system. It will make the ICE more powerful but also efficient, leading to a gain of around half a second per lap. We've used a small proportion of our token allocation for this upgrade.
Will you use the new spec in Monaco?
RT: The current power unit used since Australia has had several smaller upgrades and all the drivers were very happy with the standard in Spain. In parallel, we've been working on the new spec since the start of the season but needed to sign off all the parts for reliability and mileage before using on track. The tests were very positive and showed it to be more powerful and driveable. We had originally planned to use the new version in Canada when the current units are scheduled to be removed from the cycle, but if we can get the units together and completely validated by Monaco we will use the ones available at this race.
Can we expect any more similar steps over the rest of the year?
RT: We will continue our development over the rest of the season, using tokens with a view to getting on board any useful items identified from our 2017 work. We are principally focused on 2017 and making that next power unit as optimal as possible.