Russia 2018 - GP Preview - Renault F1
We left Singapore with a modicum of satisfaction. We were pleased to have been able to secure our first double points finish of the second half of the year, and to see the successful implementation of more aero and mechanical upgrades. Both Enstone, Viry and the track team worked well together to successfully translate the performance gains seen in the data. As a result, we were able to extend our slender advantage in fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship.
We aim to keep this momentum going in Russia. We have some further upgrades and mechanical tweaks we hope to give some further stability. Singapore has confirmed once again how tight the competition is at the moment as well as the competitiveness of the top teams – even at circuits we expect to play to our strengths. We need to keep pushing in every area and take points when we can as we know our adversaries will do the same.
Five points in Singapore saw the team extend their advantage in fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship as the 2018 season enters its final six races. Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester discusses the Sochi Autodrom and the mood in the Enstone camp, as every detail counts in the fight for fourth.
What’s there to say about the Sochi Autodrom?
It’s quite an interesting mix. The tarmac is quite smooth which means it can be quite difficult to generate enough grip, so getting the tyres working properly can be a challenge. You need a medium to high level of downforce, but there are some straights as well so you can’t put too much wing on or you’ll suffer on the straights. It’s quite a big power track as the straights are quite reasonable in length and that requires a lot of acceleration. The trick is trying to get the car working on the smooth tarmac, generating a good level of grip as well as getting the car well balanced for the numerous traction events for stability into corners with good traction out whilst managing the understeer in the middle. There’s plenty to consider!
Are you looking forward to seeing Artem Markelov in the car for FP1?
Artem is doing well in Formula 2 and he’s had some very good results. He deserves this opportunity, so it will be interesting to see what he can do in the car. He’s been a positive addition to the team in his role so far this season. He makes a solid contribution to what we’re doing.
What’s the verdict on the tyre choice for Sochi?
It’s tricky as the step with the Hypersoft, compared to the other compounds, is interesting. It’s a lot quicker over one lap than the other tyres, but you do get the degradation. In Sochi, it will be run for qualifying, which will mean the majority of the top ten will have to start with it and drivers will be trying to manage it in the race. It might be a little bit easier to manage the degradation in Sochi because the tarmac is smooth and might not give the tyres such a hard time.
Are there any upgrades for Sochi?
We have floor updates for Sochi; this is an evolution from the update we saw in Spa and this should give us a small gain. We ran updated bargeboards and sidepod vanes in Singapore and they behaved as expected, so we will use these again in Russia.
What’s the post-Singapore feeling?
It was good to get a double-points finish; we’ve been due one for a while. Carlos drove a really solid race. He was helped a bit by not starting on the Hypersofts, but he did the perfect job to come back to eighth. Nico was caught at the start, but drove really well after that and ran a good, long stint. It’s another five points and we’re edging ahead in fourth, which is important.
Nico Hülkenberg returned to the points last time out, as attention switches quickly to the Sochi Autodrom and round sixteen of the 2018 Formula 1 season, the Russian Grand Prix.
Do you enjoy the Russian Grand Prix?
I enjoy travelling to Russia. It’s an interesting place with plenty going on and lots of things to do. Sochi is still a fairly new venue to the Formula 1 calendar, but it is an enjoyable circuit to drive, and the Russian atmosphere is always quite good.
What’s there to say about the Sochi Autodrom?
It’s one of the longer laps of the season, with lots of corners. That provides a challenge as you have to string together those combinations and get the sectors nailed perfectly; especially in qualifying. The track has a nice flow to it, it’s quick, and that’s why I like it. It’s a long straight off the line, before heavy braking into turn one followed by the long, on-going left-hander. It’s fast and flowing from there before the final sector which is a bit slower and features a couple of 90-degree turns. Rear tyre overheating is the main consideration for that part of the lap. Overall, though, it’s fun to drive.
What’s your record like in Russia?
I ended my bad run in Sochi last season by finishing eighth, which was my second points finish in Renault colours. I haven’t had the best luck in Russia up until that after a couple of retirements, but we’ve put that behind us now and we’ll be aiming for another strong finish this season as well.
What’s the post-Singapore mood?
It’s good to be back in the top ten after a difficult spell in our season. It’s important to score with both cars in our fight for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, so we have to draw on the positives from that. Of course, you always want more, and I can only help but feel there was more out there for us in Singapore. We’ll take a point and aim for an improved outing in Russia.
Carlos Sainz added four points to his season tally in Singapore as he aims to build some momentum heading into the final six races of the 2018 season with the Sochi Autodrom the next challenge.
What are your thoughts on the Sochi Autodrom?
Sochi is an interesting circuit and I have mixed memories there. The 2015 practice crash was a low point, but we dusted ourselves down well after that and fought our way back into the points after starting last before retiring. It’s a circuit where we have the potential to score some good points and I always prefer to look forward, so clearly this year the objective will be to make it into the top ten.
Talk us through a lap…
It’s quite a long lap with three different sectors. The first is mainly full throttle with a long straight followed by a never-ending left-hander. The second sector flows well and is taken fairly fast with another long flat-out section leading into sector three, which is quite slow. The most special thing about the track is probably the long turn three, which puts the neck to work.
How much do you know about Sochi as a sporting venue?
The Olympics in 2014 and the World Cup earlier this year have brought Sochi onto the sporting map in recent years. Spain didn’t have too much luck in the World Cup, and they did play a group match in Sochi against Portugal. Hopefully I can bring better luck for Spain next weekend by picking up more points!
What’s your advice to Artem Markelov for FP1?
I’m missing out on FP1 next weekend, as Artem takes over for his first go in a Formula 1 car in an official practice session. I will help him out where I can, but having watched a bit of Formula 2 this season, I can see he is very talented and deserves the opportunity. Most Formula 1 drivers have been in a similar position to Artem, so I’d tell him to enjoy the moment and then the results will follow. After his run, I’ll be straight back out for FP2 and aiming to hit the ground running and get as many laps under my belt as possible. We need to keep the momentum going.
Artem Markelov joined Renault Sport Formula One Team as Test & Development Driver ahead of the 2018 Formula 1 season alongside racing in the FIA Formula 2 Championship. He tested contemporary Formula 1 machinery for the first time in August in the official post-Hungary test and now is gearing up for his second outing in the Renault R.S.18 at his home Grand Prix in Russia, where he’ll take over from Carlos Sainz for Free Practice 1 at the Sochi Autodrom.
Artem also has Formula 2 duties on the same weekend. He sits fourth in the standings with three wins and a further three podiums to his name so far in 2018. The 24-year-old is aiming to add to that tally at his home round, as he discusses his thoughts ahead of the weekend as well as Formula 1’s growth in Russia.
How excited are you for Sochi?
I’m excited for the weekend, but there’s going to be a lot of pressure from the fans, friends and family because there will be a lot of people who haven’t seen me race live before. I’m really looking forward to it, but I need to calm down and focus on doing my job well.
How well do you know the Sochi Autodrom?
I don’t know the circuit so well, as I’ve only done two race weekends there and that was at the start of my GP2 career. The results weren’t great, so this year I aim to do well.
Are you excited to drive the Renault R.S.18 in Free Practice?
It’s going to be very special, especially as it’s my first Free Practice session in Formula 1. I’ve already done the young driver test at the Hungaroring in August, which was amazing, but this is going to be another really nice experience for me as I’ll be working closely with the team at a Grand Prix for the first time. I’ll be aiming to understand everything, take it a step at a time and then try to improve the car for the guys ahead of the rest of the weekend. Hopefully I can contribute to a successful weekend, that would be nice.
What are the targets for the two Formula 2 races?
Of course, I will be aiming for a couple of home wins. That would be good in front of the Russian crowd. To be on the podium would be great, but to be on the top step would be extra special.
How busy are you going to be away from the circuit?
It’s going to be a full-on weekend, but I’m ready for that. I enjoy working with the media and marketing guys. It’s a different side of racing and they are there to give me as much exposure as possible. I’m looking forward to meeting people and doing my job.
How big is Formula 1 in Russia?
It’s getting better and better every year. Hopefully, in five more years, more Russian people will understand properly what Formula 1 is about and how it works. It would be even better to have Russian drivers at the top and one day that will be my goal, not only to be in Formula 1, but competing for championships.