"We want to be fifth": Revamped Renault F1 team sets modest goal for 2017
The Renault F1 team rolled out its new car at a ceremony in London today, setting its goals at a modest level for the 2017 season, with Renault Spo...
The Renault F1 team rolled out its new car at a ceremony in London today, setting its goals at a modest level for the 2017 season, with Renault Sport boss Jerome Stoll saying that the team has targeted fifth place in the F1 championship.
This will likely put it into the battle with Force India and McLaren, the latter being something of an unknown quantity, which could even aspire to challenge Ferrari this year. Renault has come from further back in the step from 2016 to 2017 than McLaren.
Alain Prost was rolled out as a member of the executive committee of the F1 team and he will play a role in the strategy for the team and in working with its drivers. His goal is to help Renault get back to winning ways and while he will not have a day to day role, he will attend regular meetings and races.
"I'm excited, looking at the size of the car, it's like the old days with the big tyres," he said. "It is going to be a big challenge physically and the cars are going to be impressive, hopefully it will bring new spectators and young spectators."
The team dispensed with team principal Frederic Vasseur recently and Cyril Abiteboul was clearly the leader of the F1 team at the presentation. He said that he has been working hard behind the scenes to integrate the chassis operation at Enstone and the engine operation in Viry, France.
Abiteboul said that Renault has increased headcount by 25 per cent since the manufacturer took over the team from Lotus at the end of 2015, and explained that the 2017 new rules meant a 'reset' and created an opportunity for all the teams to spend more efficiently and to close the gap to the top teams.
He later added that the gains on the engine side from the end of 2016 to the start of 2017 are estimated at 0.3s a lap and have come about by creating a new engine rather than iterating the old one. This will be significant in the story of the season for Renault's customer team Red Bull Racing, which will attempt to take on Mercedes using the Renault power unit.
"If we were serious about our ambition to catch up with, and if not overtake, the best in class which is Mercedes, we had to envisage a completely different philosophy, which is what we have done this year," said the Frenchman.
"So the first thing to get right is reliability. That is what will have to come first. In terms of performance gains, we are targeting 0.3 seconds in terms of how we finished the season and how we start the season - I am just talking about engine to engine."
"The cars are an awful lot quicker, they are more visually appealing and that's going to make the sport more exciting," added technical director Bob Bell. "We will see performance increase by 5 per cent this year, which means that we will see lap times drop by around three to four seconds per lap. They have a lot more mechanical grip in the corners, we are hopeful [that it will make the racing better].
Renault's drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer were introduced along with Sergei Sirotkin, who retains the reserve driver role. Abiteboul paid tribute to Palmer, crediting him with a very strong end of the 2016 season.
Hulkenberg is an interesting one; the German signed to drive with the team led by Vasseur, who had been his team boss in his junior career, achieving great success. It will be interesting to see how he gels with the team under new management. It's like a footballer signing with a manager only to find that he's playing for a different manager.
Renault finished ninth in the 2016 constructors’ championship with a total of eight points courtesy of Palmer and former driver Kevin Magnussen, who will race for Haas F1 in 2017.
The French manufacturer has spent the off-season making upgrades to its V6 turbo engine, which it believes is now on a par with Ferrari and not far off the level of Mercedes.
Christian Horner, boss of the Red Bull team that runs Renault’s power units under its Tag Heuer sponsor’s name, recently said that the manufacturer had “had a big winter", which he hoped would close the gaps to the field’s best engines.
What do you make of the RS17? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.
Retro F1 tech: The big shake-ups of the 2000s
Renault presents its 2017 Formula 1 car