Australia 2020 - GP preview - Renault F1
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal
The start of a Formula 1 season is always a very exciting time. After a good end to pre-season testing in Barcelona, we head to Australia with ambition but with a hint of caution given the relative unknown of the competition level of our rivals. The first race is the time everyone on the grid shows their true hand.
We are as best prepared as we can be for the start of the year thanks to the hard work across Enstone and Viry over the winter months. These efforts were exemplified in pre-season testing with solid engine reliability and a performance level, which fitted with what we expected to see. Now we aim to see the benefits of our preparation come to fruition at a race weekend.
The car and driver line-up have great potential for a good season. Daniel is highly motivated for 2020 and especially for his home race. Esteban too has a hunger in his eyes to prove why he deserves to be on the grid, and I believe this combination is the perfect recipe for success. As a team, we need a clean first weekend, everything to run as smooth as possible and then we will almost certainly reap the rewards from it.
The season is going to be long and there will be some opportunities along the way, which we have to seize. Our objectives are set, we are well prepared and we’re looking forward to opening the season.
Daniel Ricciardo enters his second Australian Grand Prix wearing Renault colours, and his ninth ever racing at the Albert Park Circuit in Formula 1. Together with the support from a raucous home crowd, Daniel is aiming to score a strong result in Melbourne and kickstart his second season with the team in style.
What are your thoughts on the Renault R.S.20 heading into the season opener?
Pre-season testing was, overall, positive for us. Both Esteban and I racked up a lot of mileage in the car, which is a boost heading into the new season. You don’t really know the true pace of the car or rivals until Saturday, but I’m feeling happy with the overall balance from testing, so let’s see where we are come qualifying. The whole team has worked extremely hard over winter to get the car ready, and I’m very excited to finally get racing.
Describe what it is like racing at your home Grand Prix?
It’s a special feeling racing at home in Australia. I’m away from home for so long during the year, so it’s nice to spend time here with friends and family. The Australian fans are great, and you can really feel their support and use it as extra motivation. I’ve not always had the best race in Melbourne, so I’m looking to try and correct that this year and deliver a strong weekend with Renault.
What’s the Albert Park Circuit like to race?
Albert Park is a fun track to drive with a lot of high and medium speed sections, and it’s nice to experience something different after testing. The technical requirements of the track are different to Barcelona, and you need a good set-up to deliver a strong result. The circuit is also not famed for its overtaking, so qualifying is quite important. My favourite part of the course is probably towards the end. There’s a good overtaking spot into Turn 9, with the bank on the left always packed with fans, so if I pull off an overtake there, it always gets a nice reaction!
Esteban Ocon will line-up for a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time in 476 days in Australia. After a busy and promising pre-season test fortnight at the wheel of the Renault R.S.20, the Frenchman is raring to go for the opening race of the season.
What’s it like to be preparing for a Formula 1 race weekend again?
It feels fantastic to be heading into a race weekend. It’s been a while since I’ve had to get into that competitive mindset, so it’s very exciting to be doing that again. I’ve had a solid winter training programme, which began especially early to be ready for this challenge and I feel like I’m in good shape. I’ve settled well into the team and that began in December with the test in Abu Dhabi, followed by regular simulator days and, recently, pre-season testing in Barcelona. It’s great to be preparing for a season with everything tailor-made for you. I’m ready, I’m pumped, and I can’t wait to go to Melbourne!
How do you feel pre-season testing went for you and the team?
We left testing on a high note after a solid final day in the car for both Daniel and I. We made a decent step with the car and it did feel good. We’ve had a bit of time to analyse the data and jump in the simulator to find where we can improve. I have confidence for a great result in Melbourne, but we will take it a step at a time and ease ourselves back into a race weekend. Testing is one thing, driving lots of laps, but going racing is very different and it’s important we maximise any opportunity.
What do you like about the Australian Grand Prix?
Melbourne is a great place and I really enjoy going there. It’s always good to get away from the cold weather in Europe and enjoy some sunshine! I like the buzz around this time of year as it’s the start of the season and there’s that excitement to get everything going. It’s always a cool atmosphere throughout the weekend in Australia and I find that quite motivating. The aim is to put on a show and take home some points for the team!
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