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Renault's Azerbaijan preview

NEWS STORY
19/06/2017

Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport Racing Managing Director: Baku will mark the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix after the circuit made its debut in the European Grand Prix last year. It's an event we're looking forward to as it's another opportunity for us to improve and develop, which are the keywords for our season.

Montreal was a solid weekend for us and at this point in our roadmap, we can be satisfied with the results. After the frustration of Monaco, it was important for us to brush that aside, focus on getting the job done in Canada and make a swift return to the points. Nico had a strong Grand Prix showing good pace across both Saturday and Sunday. We must pay credit to him as he remained cool throughout an eventful race with the high wind which caused all sorts of issues. We took a risk-free punt at pitting Nico early under the Virtual Safety Car and an eighth-place finish was probably as good as it was going to get.

Jolyon was able to secure back-to-back eleventh place finishes which is positive as we are seeing improving race pace. The challenge and priority for Jolyon now is to qualify higher in order to be in a better position on the grid. That will boost his chances of being in contention of winning some points and contribute to the team's charge of moving up the Constructors' Championship. We closed the gap to both Williams and Toro Rosso in the standings with our aim, of being sixth before the mid-season break, remaining unchanged.

It was good to see Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull on the podium in Canada for the third time in a row this season. This is a good illustration of what is possible and on the Power Unit side we are making constant improvements to the R.E.17, which was a new engine package for 2017 that allows a substantial step forward from its predecessor, the R.E.16. Obviously, this was darkened by Max Verstappen's retirement, as he was looking very strong in second position. That retirement was the first one for Red Bull Racing caused by the Power Unit since Melbourne 2016, but it is not an excuse as perfect reliability in the race is our priority, for all our customers.

Baku is an especially exciting and testing circuit on the Formula 1 calendar and it is important that we add to our success from Canada with another points haul. Baku presents a fairly similar task to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with some long straights finishing in hard-braking zones. Everything we learned in Montreal should be very useful for building towards a clearer picture for Azerbaijan. Last year was a step into the unknown but there is a positive feeling this time around as we have the know-how on what to expect.

The work going in at both Enstone and Viry is pushing us further forward towards our target and it is vital now that we keep on working through these busy European rounds which come thick and fast. And hopefully in the next couple of races, by Hungary, at the end of July, these efforts will be rewarded with more substantial upgrades, to support us in fighting for higher positions. We need positive results to drive us to where we want to be, in fifth position in the Constructors' Championship. We are making small improvements each race which is increasingly encouraging.

Technical Director Nick Chester is keen to build on the positivity of Renault's recent points finish in Montreal as the R.S.17 upgrade packages continue to move the team further forward.

What do we know about Baku?
Nick Chester: It was a pretty tricky place last year on the circuit's Formula 1 debut. It has a bit of a Monaco styled section but with some long straights down the back. It is a bit bumpy and a very difficult place for both set-up and driving. We will need good braking stability as it is hard braking with hard and tight corner entries. It has a tricky mix and we probably need three different cars; one for each section!

Does the R.S.17 have any new upgrades?
NC: We have got a few updates, including bodywork. We have some things to try on suspension to improve the handling and also an update to the cooling system to improve the performance a little bit. What we learned from Canada will be useful for Baku especially in terms of hard-braking.

Is there much happening behind the scenes?
NC: We already have a few designers working on the 2018 car. We are still working hard to develop the 2017 car and we have a few things still planned. As we start developing the 2018 model in the tunnel, we might try and bring some items forward to this year's car. As you go through the season, you gradually have less designers on it as some of the attention switches to next season. We are also working hard behind the scenes to improve our capabilities at Enstone with upgrade programs in various departments.

The new Operations Room is hitting full swing, how is it functioning?
NC: The Operations Room has been really useful since it went live for Spain. It has helped a lot to understand car performance and set-up after practice sessions. Monaco was a good example of that after our problematic Thursday. We made a big improvement courtesy of the room where we held meetings and managed to make some changes, find the problems and we subsequently found some improvement.

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