Renault wants F1 customers to take its young drivers

Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul says the manufacturer needs to assess how it leverages its engine supply deals to help drivers in its junior scheme make it to Formula 1.

For 2018, the French marque has seven up-and-coming drivers in the Renault Sport Academy set-up, led by ART Formula 2 racer Jack Aitken.

Renault previously supported the likes of Robert Kubica and Heikki Kovalainen on their way to F1, and Abiteboul explained that in order help its current crop of juniors it would need to look at how it exploits its engine supply deals. 

In recent years, Mercedes assisted Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon in finding F1 seats, while Charles Leclerc's Ferrari ties helped him secure a drive at Sauber in 2018.

“We need to be sure when the time comes, if we have the right person capable of doing what it takes, of having what it takes, [we are able] to bring him to F1,” Abiteboul said.

“In my opinion, an important element to that will be how we leverage our engine supply activities. Because, for instance if you look at what Mercedes is doing, it’s the view that there is a connection between engine supply strategy and driver development strategy.  

“In our case, it has helped us this year because the access to Carlos Sainz was also on the back on a larger agreement with Red Bull Racing, which was kicked off by what we’ve done with McLaren

“So there is already a connection, but in the future I also want this connection [to be] in the favour of the guy coming out from our academy.” 

Christian Lundgaard was the only RSA driver to win a title in 2017 – he was victorious in both the SMP Formula 4 championship and the Spanish F4 series – and since its launch in 2016 the Academy is yet to have a driver graduate to F1. 

But, after explaining that the RSA was growing in parallel to the Renault F1 team’s rebuilding process since it re-joined grand prix racing for 2016, Abiteboul also emphasised the importance of patience regarding the development of the drivers supported by the scheme. 

“I think we can be quite satisfied,” he said. “If you look at the level of people who have joined us, I think there is no question mark – almost every single one of them has been between one and two in their championship. 

“Max Fewtrell [sixth in the 2017 Formula Renault Eurocup] is a bit different but it was his first year and he was the best of the rookies. I think that the people we have are showing, again, it’s a programme of Renault where we are credible. 

“It’s going to take a bit of time – I know that we are in a world where everyone is expecting results immediately but when you work with people who are only 16, for the youngest, it’s normal that things take time.” 

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Series Formula 1
Teams Renault F1 Team
Article type Breaking news