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Renault's Australian GP preview

NEWS STORY
22/03/2017

Cyril Abiteboul: Renault Sport Formula One Team heads to the start of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship season in a very different state to twelve months ago.

Last year we arrived in Melbourne at the end of a furious few months where the team had been created from a fusion of the previous F1 team with our existing power unit team to create a full manufacturer entry as part of a new structure, Renault Sport Racing. Our lead times had been exceptionally short and no matter how hard we worked, our R.S.16 was always a compromise car.

In contrast, today's R.S.17 is a car built with no compromises with development since its inception across our two facilities, Enstone and Viry. At the heart of the car is the R.E.17, an all-new power unit, and the car has been built to be a significant step forward.

Pre-season testing in Barcelona was productive but not perfect. Our car truly looks beautiful on track but it was shy on occasion to take to the circuit. We have addressed the ERS issue which caused us reliability concerns and do not expect to see a repeat of it in Australia. There is a balance between pushing the envelope of performance and maintaining the requisite reliability and the trick is to stretch the margins without overstepping them.

We know we have a strong base with the R.S.17 which puts us in good stead for the relentless development race we expect to see. We are confident in the abilities of the team to improve and develop the car over the year.

We have two talented and hungry drivers. Nico has already shown us to be the driver we need to help lead us to where we want to be. Jolyon we know well and he has adapted immediately to this new generation car. Crucially, both drivers are giving us similar feedback regarding the R.S.17 so we have a clear direction for progress.

The 2017 regulations have brought Formula 1 some very different cars and they arrive to changes behind the scenes of Formula 1 too. Every team is trying their hardest but we have fresh impetus and we are determined to do everything required so we achieve our goals in 2017.

The first race of the season always throws-up its own challenges. Australia is a fantastic country and Melbourne a fabulous city. Renault is growing strongly in Australia and has ambitious targets for the future. Our own target for Albert Park is the same target we will have for every race this year: points. We want to score points throughout the year so when the final tally comes we have finished fifth in the Constructors' Championship. It will be a long battle, butwe know what we need to do.

With just two weeks of testing in Barcelona under the team's belt, Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell looks to the first race of the season.

How well are we placed for the first race of the season?
Bob Bell: Even though we didn't accumulate as many miles as we would have liked in pre-season testing we were able to make good progress over the two weeks in Barcelona and we are reasonably confident heading to Australia. The R.S.17 performed well on track, it is receptive to set-up changes and Nico and Jolyon found it enjoyable to drive. Even though we did experience some issues we don't have any overriding concerns over reliability as we accumulated sufficient data and have taken remedial and precautionary measures to address the particular ERS issue we saw. The R.S.17 worked well on both high and low fuels with no surprises. We have a good idea on how to get the best out of the tyres and the drivers have a good feeling from the car in both qualifying and race trim. We're looking forward to our first race with this car with good expectations.

What's the general feedback on this new generation of Formula 1 car?
BB: Both Nico and Jolyon certainly enjoyed their driving of the car. The cars are a lot faster and they are more visually appealing. They have lived up to expectations in many regards. Allied to the new cars we have new tyres from Pirelli for this season and we experienced no shocks in terms of performance or durability. The big question is, of course, what will the racing be like and there are many different predictions. Let's see what happens at Albert Park, a race which can always give you something of the unexpected as the first race of the season, and one that takes place on a challenging street course.

Are you confident that the ERS issue seen in Barcelona has been addressed?
BB: Testing, especially with an all-new package, is all about learning. We experienced an issue with the ERS which had previously been seen on the dyno, but packaged in the car and out on track it was amplified. Since Barcelona we've adopted a belt and braces approach to avoid a similar issue in Melbourne.

What will be the challenges of Albert Park?
BB: The biggest challenge with Albert Park is that the first race of the season always produces unusual results. This will be the first time we set-up these cars to go racing and this is the first time we go through a race weekend schedule and it occurs the other side of the world from where our car was conceived and produced. Albert Park itself is - as the name suggests - in a park and it's a non-permanent race facility. The track surface will be green at the beginning of running, just as you're trying to learn as much as possible with these new cars. The weather - as any Melburnian will tell you - can be variable to say the least, so there are many factors to consider. What we do know is that we have two very good drivers and a great team behind them. Whatever the challenges for this first race, we'll be pushing for the best result possible.

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