F1 - USA 2018 - GP Preview - Renault F1
Fourth position is going to be close as we reach the final straight of the season, but we’re feeling positive ahead of the next race in the United States.
Our race pace is clearly competitive in relation to the midfield teams, but we absolutely need to improve single-lap, qualifying pace. There is very little difference between P7 and P16 right now and we need to ensure we are in the best possible position on the grid on race day. This is where points are won and lost.
We are reaching the end of our development cycle this season since we are increasingly focused on 2019 projects, but our immediate priority remains meeting our objectives set at the start of 2018.
To do this, we need to see the final four races as a mini-championship. Austin is the next challenge and we go there in a determined mood with a point to prove.
Austin, Texas, is the next stop on the 2018 Formula 1 calendar, as the season enters its final furlong. Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester reveals what’s required to go well at the Circuit of the Americas as the midfield poker game goes on.
What are the main challenges of the Circuit of the Americas?
It’s an interesting track with some good elevation changes and a mix of sectors. The uphill part leading into turn one is impressive. It’s very steep and it makes for some late braking. The first sector after that is high-speed with quick changes of direction. It’s similar to the esses at Suzuka and that provides a challenge. Sector two has a reasonable back straight and a couple of medium speed corners with the final sector featuring a couple of lower speed corners.
What’s needed to go well there?
You need good aerodynamic efficiency, good downforce without too much drag, power and a predictable and stable set-up on the car. There’s nothing special in terms of set-up, but there are a real mix of corners to get through. Sector three should be good for us and we’ll be aiming to extract the most from the car from the fast sector one.
Do you expect to go well in Austin?
Both drivers like the circuit, especially Carlos and he seems to go quite well there. He was stunning last year on his Renault debut and he clearly likes the track. It can be a decent circuit for our package. It’s so tight in the midfield at the moment, we need to extract the maximum from the car on both the Saturday and Sunday. The gap from seventh to twelfth on the grid might only be three-tenths, so it’s super tight. We have to do everything we can to get to the top of that bunch.
Have you learnt anything from Japan?
It was a really good drive from Carlos to go from thirteenth to tenth on a circuit which is difficult for overtaking. We showed competitive race pace after suffering in qualifying.
With four races left and a tight battle for fourth, will the team be doing anything different to stay on top?
It’s clearly very close in the midfield, but it doesn’t change what we do in our preparation or what we do at the track because we expect to score points at every race weekend. Of course, there’s a lot at stake in this case but for us it’s an added focus to make sure we get everything out of the car. It’s game on.
After a tough double-header, Nico Hülkenberg heads to the Circuit of the Americas in a determined mood as he eyes up a return to the points with the season entering its business end.
What’s so special about the US Grand Prix?
I really like going to Texas for the US Grand Prix. Austin is a cool city and has a nice vibe, so it’s a great place to host a Formula 1 race. It’s generally a great event and the enjoyment factor is very high. I quite like my food and America is good for that, especially burgers and the cheat stuff. Although, I won’t have any fast food before the race, come Sunday night I’ll be sure to tuck into some ‘local treats’. Year on year, the United States has proved to be a very fun Grand Prix weekend.
What’s there to say about the Circuit of the Americas?
The track is a real standout on the 2018 calendar. It’s really well designed with a lot of cool corner combinations, which flow one after the other and requires a good rhythm. Sector one is quite similar to Maggots-Becketts-Chapel at Silverstone, as it flicks and flows at high-speed. That’s what us drivers love. You need a good balance in Austin to set-up for the flowing corners and also for the two long straights. The circuit is quite high on brake wear and also fuel consumption, so those are areas to be wary about, but nevertheless, Austin is a circuit which puts a smile on my face!
What’s the Hulk’s mindset for the final four races in 2018?
It’s been a tough couple of races, but we remain positive and eager to bounce back for the last four weekends of the season. Japan didn’t go to plan, but we’re aiming to learn from what happened to be best prepared for Austin. I’m determined to be in the points for the last four races – as is Carlos on the other side of the garage – so it’s going to be maximum effort to extract the most from the current package and ensure we keep fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Carlos Sainz battled hard to ensure he took the final point in Japan. Now the Spaniard has his sights set on the next challenge of Austin for the United States Grand Prix, a circuit which has played kindly for him in the past.
Why do you like the US Grand Prix?
Austin is one of my favourite Formula 1 circuits. It has personality and charisma and is a little different to the usual Formula 1 track. You can feel the power of a current Formula 1 car there and it has the right blend of fast corners, fast straights, tricky braking points and 90-degree turns; all of which add up to create a challenge for us drivers. The first sector is outstanding and very fun in a modern Formula 1 car. It’s very fast with quick changes of direction and high G-forces. I really enjoy these types of circuits.
What do you remember from your debut for Renault in Austin last season?
It’s obviously a memorable track for me as it was my first race in Renault colours last season. It was a good effort all round by the team and we had a lot to learn in a short space of time. It was a successful weekend and it meant I began my stint at Renault on a positive note. I remember qualifying being a lot of fun, and we made it into Q3. The race as well was enjoyable, where we were quick and made some nice overtakes. It was the perfect introduction to the team and I’ve loved every moment of the last year wearing the yellow and black.
What’s the mood heading into race week?
After scoring a point in Japan, I’m feeling hopeful for Austin. The circuit should suit the car better than Suzuka, so we remain positive. We have to keep fighting. We know the second-half of the season has been tough for everyone involved with the team, but it shows we have a lot of spirit. Even if we don’t have all the pace we want, we’re still scoring points, so we need to hold onto that and keep fighting and pushing. We can meet our targets.
12 October 2018 - 16h13, by Olivier Ferret
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