Spain 2019 - GP preview - Renault F1
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal, Renault F1 Team
The start of the European segment of the 2019 Formula 1 season is an opportunity for us to reset. Overall, it’s been a tough start to the year and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix capped off a run of results that fell short of our expectations. We know we are capable of much more and we need to target clean weekends and races to make the most of our potential.
To do so, we have work to do on all sides of our operation; chassis and engine on and off track, and work with the drivers to allow them to reach their respective capacities. We are motivated as ever to strive for more and we aim for a full recovery in competitiveness in Spain.
We know that the midfield is tight, but this also creates opportunities. We’ve seen that fortunes can change in an instant so we go to Barcelona hungry to get our season campaign going.
After a frustrating weekend in Azerbaijan, the team heads to Barcelona aiming to make a strong recovery on a familiar circuit. Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester explains the team’s focus heading into the first European round.
What are the key challenges of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?
Barcelona is a very familiar track for Formula 1 teams with all the pre-season testing conducted there in recent years. It’s a combination of high-speed and low-speed corners and short and long straights, so you get a full range of conditions to see how the car operates. Turns 3 and 10 are very fast nowadays, but there’s also some slow stuff to get right towards the end of the lap in the tighter sector three. We have the harder compounds of tyre available for Spain and we’re going from a circuit with the lowest energy input into the tyres to the highest. We will have to consider car balance and how we protect the tyres.
One thing that does change between the winter and now are the track conditions as it’s a little warmer and a lot cleaner. Given our solid base at winter testing in February and March, we should be well prepared. We covered a lot of mileage over the two tests and ended with a solid, reliable set-up that worked well around Barcelona. This will give us confidence to come back strong after Baku.
What’s the feedback after Baku?
We weren’t able to piece together a strong weekend in Baku and we left disappointed. We started on the backfoot – missing FP1 hurt us as we had a lot of development items we weren’t fully able to explore. Missing track time on a street circuit certainly isn’t ideal for the drivers either. On race day the performance for Daniel was improved and he demonstrated good pace in the middle of the race. An uncharacteristic mistake ended his day and I am sure he will learn from that. There’s plenty of analysis to do from the weekend to allow us to be in better shape for future races.
Are there any updates to the Renault R.S.19 for Spain?
As the first European round, Barcelona does offer a good opportunity to bring a number of updates to the car. Most other teams will do the same, but we have a number of reasonable upgrades that are positive. We have a few aero parts to add to the front wing and rear of the car. We are also looking at some mechanical tweaks to improve car balance. At this stage there is a development race going on between the teams, but we will keep pushing hard to get best from it each weekend.
Will the post-race test bring an opportunity to look at some further performance items?
We will test some Monaco specific items and some development components that are not track specific. We will have one day with Nico and one day with Jack, who proved himself in Baku, and we have a full program to get through.
Nico Hülkenberg heads to Spain with a determined frame of mind, as he targets a strong weekend and a return to the points.
What are the main challenges of racing in Barcelona?
We rack up a lot of laps at Barcelona year on year, so it’s a place we are all very familiar with. It’s a layout I like with a lot high-speed corners including Turns 3 and 10, which are especially quick. Barcelona is actually a very physical circuit, and you usually feel the aches in your neck after the race! We had a productive winter test there earlier in the year so we’ll be looking to build on that circuit knowledge and put in a good result throughout the weekend.
Do you like racing in Barcelona?
The Spanish Grand Prix has been on the calendar every year since I’ve raced in Formula 1, and I’ve won a race at the circuit back in 2008 in my Formula 3 days! The fans are excellent in Spain every year; they are loud and so passionate for motorsport and that’s great to see.
How do you reflect on the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?
Obviously, Baku was not a good weekend for us. I gave it my best effort and was driving very hard, but we couldn’t seem to make any progression. The season is very long and I hope this is just one of those off weekends, which can happen. It’s been a difficult start to the season, but I know we’re a tight group. We’ll put our heads together and go again in Barcelona.
Daniel Ricciardo is remaining positive ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
What do you like about the Spanish Grand Prix?
The Spanish Grand Prix is always an exciting time of the year as it’s the first European round of the season. Barcelona is a fun circuit, we all know it very well from all the winter and in-season testing. It’s a circuit I’ve always enjoyed racing at in my career: I won there in Formula Renault 3.5 and in recent years have been on the podium. We’ll be targeting a clean weekend right from the off on Friday and hopefully come away with some points in the bag.
What’s a lap like at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?
The track has a bit of everything, which is why it’s probably a good circuit for testing. The first sector has a nice flow, especially the run through Turns 1, 2 and 3. The final sector slows down a bit and is more technical, placing a bit of a demand on the rear tyres which can overheat quite easily if you’re not careful.
What are your post-Azerbaijan feelings?
I feel bad for the team about what happened in Baku, especially as we were starting to hit a nice rhythm in the race. We’ll take the positives from it, move on and go again in Barcelona. Unfortunately, the three-place grid penalty isn’t ideal, but it’s one I’ll accept for my error and I’ll deal with it as best as I can in Spain. Maybe it’s time to crack out some of the overtaking moves!
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