Renault's Belgium preview with Fred Vasseur and Bob Bell


Cyril Abiteboul, managing director: After a very busy start to the year it was good to take some time to sit back and look at our journey since December 2015. In just over eight months we have revitalised two sites, started an aggressive recruitment campaign to build the workforce, initialised a re-build plan for Enstone, scored our first points and laid down some strong foundations for the future.

Naturally we still have a long way to do until we reach our objectives, but we are on track with the plan to get there.

Realistically in 2016 we will only be taking small steps as our main focus is now shifting to 2017 and beyond. Just before the shutdown we were on the tail of the midfield and able to fight for position; we still have a number of minor planned developments coming on stream in the later races so keeping this level of performance has got to be our objective for Spa and beyond.

We're motivated and believe we have the structure and tools to do it. It's not going to be a walk in the park, but Formula 1 never is!

Additionally, Esteban joining Manor Racing for the last nine races of the season demonstrates the excellent relationship the two teams, Renault Sport Formula One Team and Mercedes AMG Petronas, have maintained for several years.

It is an outstanding opportunity for Esteban to gather mileage and race experience in a young, stable and very professional team. Esteban will be up against a highly rated and quick teammate, which will enable us to evaluate him in a representative environment. I hope this experience will be of great benefit for him and for Renault in the near future.

Team Principal Fred Vasseur evaluates the good and the bad of Hockenheim and looks forward to the second part of the year, which starts in Spa-Francorchamps.

Did you take anything positive away from the German Grand Prix?
Fred Vasseur: The team is now in a period where we are moving forward. In the German race we fought with Haas and Toro Rosso, which shows our overall level has improved. However, we made an error in strategy, which cost one or two places. We made two stops, which was not an issue, but we did the two stops at the wrong time. Nevertheless there were some strong positives - we got to Q2 with Jo and punched above our weight in the race. We now need to keep fighting with the same competition and adapt our strategy moving forward.

What would you like to see from the team in the second part of the season?
FV: If you look at the last two or three events, we are improving but we need to be focussed on the smaller details. We need to look at set-up and strategy and make sure we are doing a better job compared to the last events. We also need to understand tyre management a bit better. Over the last two or three races we have looked at it a lot and we have a much better understanding now, so we need to keep on with this trajectory. We are improving on the grid but if you look at race pace we are always better off than in qualifying. This means we need to get more from the Saturday situation. We are going in the right direction but we need to find two or three tenths and it is in the smaller details we need to improve and find it.

When can we expect a decision on the 2017 line-up?
FV: This is a question we will get asked until we announce the drivers, and maybe even afterwards! At the moment our focus is to keep getting the best from the car. We have two drivers that are motivated so the second part of the year is to keep track of expectations and see where we are. In reality we won't take any decision before September for sure - we have no time! But it is up to us and we will take a decision when we are ready.

Chief technical officer Bob Bell looks at juggling 2017 objectives and the team's long-term goals with an improving 2016 performance.

We're just over the halfway point of the season and you've had a little over six months to have a good look at the team. How would you review everything so far?
Bob Bell: It's been a genuine challenge. Clearly we are not as competitive as we would have liked, but in some respects we are not surprised at this form. All teams are finding it hard to unlock real performance gains, partly due to the current stability in regulations that makes it tricky to find the final parts of the puzzle. It's also partly due to a concerted effort on 2017, which will see big regulation changes. It's not just hard for us, but for everyone on the grid. That said, we have been very good at finding our strong points and exploiting them, and since Hungary we have seen some genuine progress.

What would you rate as the team's strong points?
BB: Firstly, there is the very obvious point that we are a works' team and can shape the destiny of our engine and chassis. This is only shared by Mercedes and Ferrari, so it's a real advantage. We can fully integrate the two different areas and make the sum of the whole more than the sum of its parts. It is an important facet of our performance and we need to be able to exploit it better than others.

Secondly there is the heritage of the team and the hunger for championship success. I can see a real determination to return to the same levels of success. Even though we need to build up to winning, you can see there is a drive, will and experience to recapture what we achieved in the past.

Since Renault returned we have also had increased investment flowing into the team. Some tired facilities have, or will be, refreshed, the sites are being developed and we are building up the headcount. This is all part of a long-term plan as some areas, particularly recruitment, take time to come on stream.

You mentioned that 2017 is a big challenge. With half of 2016 already run, how do you split resources in the second part of the year?
BB: It's a difficult call to decide on the resource split and it really depends on your aspirations for 2016 versus your aspirations for 2017 to decide when to switch. As per most teams we are now winding up 2016 and putting all our effort into 2017.

Spa is a fearsome challenge on the calendar. How do you think the team will fare in Belgium?
BB: Spa is the longest track of the year at 7km and very fast with a good mix of high and medium speed corners, sweeping sections and some low speed corners in the mix. There's also elevation changes and you always have unpredictable weather too! It will be difficult for us, but the work we have done in the last races should stand us in good stead. We've got a better handle on car balance and I think we should be able to keep our current level of performance. We've not got a major upgrade, but we should see the progress made in the last two races transfer forward to Spa. We fought with Haas and Toro Rosso and I think we are capable of getting on their tails again. There will be some developments coming through that were scheduled to come on stream in the second part of the year so even though our focus will primarily be on 2017 after the shutdown, we should still be able to improve upon our current level of form.

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Published: 22/08/2016
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