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Renault's Brazilian GP preview with Vasseur and Chester

NEWS STORY
06/11/2016

Cyril Abiteboul, managing director: Brazil is the penultimate race in our first season as a full factory entry in Formula 1. As many in the paddock ask at this time of year, where did all the season go?

Mexico was another fabulous event with strong passions displayed on track and off. In terms of our performance it was a weekend of mixed emotions. The potential was there, as we saw from Kevin's strong qualifying performance and Jolyon's strong race from the back of the field. There was also frustration too; Kevin's race was more muted and Jolyon missing qualifying was never part of the plan! As always, we're investigating these areas so we learn and make progress from them.

Brazil is a tremendously important country for Renault; historically it's our second biggest market in the world. We have a significant factory in Curitiba where over 4000 people are employed. The facility is named the Ayrton Senna Complex and sees the production of Logan, Sandero, Duster, Oroch, Mégane II and Master III models. Significantly for Renault Sport, the Sandero RS was designed for Latin America and is helping to establish our performance arm in this crucial region.

Globally, sales of Renault Sport cars have increased by 30% over the past twelve months with the new Mégane GT and Twingo GT both proving to be big successes, especially in Europe. This is great news for the Renault Sport brand and it motivates us all to push harder still in our motorsport programme.

For Brazil, as ever, we want to see both cars in the points to cement our progress. There's much more to come for 2017, but we still want to end this first season in the best way possible.

Making the absolute most of what we've got is Team Principal Fred Vasseur's target for the penultimate race of the season.

What do you expect from the next race in Brazil?
Fred Vasseur: We are seeing for a while now that we have made a step up in terms of performance regardless of the circuit we are visiting, so that is encouraging. We are seeing that the gaps in the midfield are getting smaller all the time and it's up to us now to put it all together in terms of set-up, tyre management, and extract everything possible from the potential of the car.

What do you want to see from the last two races of the year?
FV: I expect further progress on track as we continue to extract the maximum from the R.S.16. There are still areas that we can work on to improve the overall team performance whether it is pit stops, set-up work or tyre management. I know that the team is completely focussed on that and it's good to see their motivation.

The 2017 wheels and tyres are considerably bigger than the current ones: aside from performance, what are the implications for the team?
FV: It's true that it will require a bit of a different set-up! The crew will certainly have to focus their training in this area as the tyres will be heavier and we'll also need different equipment ranging from racks to tyre blankets. We will need to conduct a lot of pit stop practice – as we always do – as the rear tyres are significantly wider as well as heavier. It's going to take some time to adapt, but that is always part of the challenge of Formula 1. We'll pay a considerable amount of attention to this before the first race of 2017.

What's the plan for the off-season?
FV: 2017 is a big challenge: we have a new technical challenge with the changed regulations and it will be the first car we produce under our new regime. There is a real excitement about the new car and the factory has some very busy months ahead producing it. There is a big unknown for next year as everyone is creating their new cars in isolation and we won't know how we compare until we hit the track at the first test in Barcelona. That is part of the excitement in this industry. We can't wait to be out on track for the first day of testing to get a feel of where we are at. But, until then, we have the two final races of 2016 and, rest assured, we'll push all the way on track in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Tight and twisty, yet with a whopping long straight, it's not just the unpredictable weather which gives the engineers something to think about in Interlagos, explains Technical Director Nick Chester.

What's notable about the Autodromo José Carlos Pace?
Nick Chester: It's an anticlockwise clockwise circuit with varying gradient and situated at quite high altitude, but not as extreme as Mexico. Sao Paulo is around 800 metres above sea level whereas Mexico City was over 2000, so you lose a little bit of downforce, but nothing compared to the last race. It is quite a challenging circuit to set up for because of the contrasting needs of the twisty infield and the long straight. We would like to run maximum downforce for more grip in the twisty bits, but you need to be as drag-free as possible to maximise your speed on the long straight.

What's the circuit like on the tyres?
NC: It's hard to generate grip at Interlagos so it won't be too easy on the tyres. We will have the Pirelli soft, medium and hard compounds available but we don't expect to see too much use of the hards. The track is bumpier than some of the smooth circuits we have visited recently so this will affect our mechanical set-up.

What type of work can still be done on the cars at this stage of the season?
NC: Whilst most of the focus is now on 2017, we carry on doing more work on tyre management, as all teams do. It's still a challenge as they are tricky beasts to get working in the right range so there's more we can do and learn. We also continue work on set-ups and set-up experiments. We'll carry on with those as they generate data that we will be able to use next year.

How would you sum up the Mexico race?
NC: Jolyon drove a good race going from the back of the grid to fourteenth place with a huge stint on the medium set of tyres. He did his pit stop on lap 1 and did 69 laps thereafter on the same set. He put up a good fight against the McLarens, even if in the end he couldn't quite keep them behind. For Kevin, it was a trickier race. He had a pretty good start and had a good stint on the soft tyres. At the pit stop, we put the medium set on the car and he lost a bit of pace. For his last stint he was on the super softs and he did enough to get ahead of the Haas cars and the Toro Rossos. His feedback was that he wasn't happy with the balance of the car and it looks like he'd lost some downforce at the rear which we are investigating ahead of Brazil.

There are only two races left of the season, what are your thoughts going into them?
NC: We have proved that we are able to capitalise on any given opportunity during the races so our aim is to continue to do that and finish the final two Grands Prix in the points.

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