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Renault's Australia preview

NEWS STORY
11/03/2019

Team boss Cyril Abiteboul and Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester, look ahead to this weekend's season opener.

Cyril Abiteboul, Renault F1 Team Team Principal: The first race of the year, the Australian Grand Prix, is a high point of the season, but even more so this year as Daniel Ricciardo makes his race debut for the team. We head there united and with strong determination.

We have a new car that has shown potential in Barcelona. The power unit has made progress and our driver line-up of Daniel and Nico is perhaps the strongest on the grid. We're looking forward to seeing them showcasing their experience and talent on track. There is a lot of expectation for the first race, especially with Daniel's debut for the team coming at his home Grand Prix.

The two pre-season tests in Barcelona were productive. We ran through our programme largely as planned, thanks to racking up a lot of kilometres. However, only the race will answer the outstanding questions and allow us to see where we are and to make further progress; it will be the hour of truth. This makes the first race of the season one of the most intense of the year for every team.

The power unit performance is there, with a clear step forward and consistent with our targets, which is very satisfying. Given the level of reliability demonstrated in Barcelona, the sensitivity over this aspect will be a little different. From now, reliability will not necessarily score points, as it had in the past, but any resulting DNFs will be more costly. We will therefore be particularly vigilant in this regard at the start of the year.

The 21-race calendar will bring opportunities for us to continue our progress. Our objective of closing the gap to the best in class is ambitious but we are resolute and every detail will be taken into consideration. We believe in our ability and we aim to set the tone for a good season in Australia this weekend.

With pre-season testing over, the team heads to Albert Park, Melbourne, for the first race of the year. Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester explains the strengths of the Renault R.S.19.

What are your feelings heading into the first race of the year?
Nick Chester: The competition looks like it will be very tight. Year on year the competitive landscape has evolved and we cannot count on our closest competitors' weaknesses. We knew with the regulation changes there was a possibility it would become even tighter and this has been played out. From our point of view, we had two good weeks of pre-season testing, covering good mileage and we went through a variety of test items as planned, meaning we go to Melbourne well prepared.

Has winter testing given a solid platform to attack the start of the season well?
NC: We have a decent balance on the car and we obtained a vast amount of data to understand the main characteristics of our package. We have been able to identify the best set-up for the drivers to optimise their performance. We've already put some performance parts on the car in the last days of testing at Barcelona that worked well and we have more to come in Melbourne. Overall, we have a strong package and the development programme outlined for the first part of the season is very intense.

What are the main challenges of Albert Park?
NC: Beginning the season on a street course throws up some challenges, especially after coming in from testing on a smooth, permanent surface. The track is usually a bit dirty on Friday with lack of grip and there's always a challenge in striking a good setup as it's a bumpy circuit. Drivers and engineers almost need to start from zero compared to Barcelona testing. Temperatures can vary a lot in Melbourne and the rain can sometimes roll in from the bay nearby and that's something to keep in mind.

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