“We were starved of re­souces”

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Rob Lad­brook

Re­nault boss Car­los Ghosn in­sists that the firms’ first sea­son back in For­mula 1 will be a re­build­ing ex­er­cise, but ex­pects the Re­nault Sport F1 Team to be fight­ing for the world cham­pi­onship within three years.

Re­nault for­merly an­nounced its F1 plans dur­ing a launch event in Paris last week, at which it un­veiled a new con­cept liv­ery and its driv­ers – Bri­ton Jolyon Palmer and Dane Kevin Mag­nussen, who was a late re­place­ment for Pas­tor Mal­don­ado af­ter a spon­sor­ship dis­agree­ment for the Venezue­lan.

Re­nault has not been present on the grid as a fac­tory op­er­a­tion since 2010, when it sold the team and its En­stone tech­ni­cal fa­cil­ity to Lotus and be­came an en­gine sup­plier with Red Bull Rac­ing act­ing as its pseudo ‘works’ op­er­a­tion.

That re­la­tion­ship soured fol­low­ing dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mances over Re­nault’s En­ergy F1 V6 power unit. In an ef­fort to re­store its rep­u­ta­tion in the sport, Re­nault bought En­stone back from Lotus late last year af­ter months of ne­go­ti­a­tions and re-formed its works team.

Ghosn said dur­ing the team’s launch that suc­cess wouldn’t come overnight: “We know it is go­ing to be tough, we’re com­pet­ing against top teams. It’s go­ing to take two or three years to be back in a solid way for the podium.

“We are work­ing a lot on the en­gine and we recog­nise we are start­ing with a hand­i­cap, but we have the tal­ent, will­ing­ness and ex­pe­ri­ence to close the gap.

“We are not here to par­tic­i­pate, we are here to com­pete at the high­est level and even­tu­ally win. We want to get to the point where ev­ery time a race start, Re­nault is a con­tender. It won’t hap­pen in 2016, that would be a mir­a­cle, but I’m count­ing on the team to make im­prove­ments to the en­gine, car, tech­nol­ogy to come for­ward as soon as pos­si­ble.”

A re­learn­ing year

Re­nault’s ex­pec­ta­tions for its first sea­son back are mod­est, but pave the way for big­ger plans within the next few years.

Ghosn was keen to stress that the re-for­ma­tion of the team marks the start of a long-term com­mit­ment to F1 from Re­nault, not a last-chance sa­loon.

Re­nault’s ac­qui­si­tion of the con­trol­ling stake of Lotus F1 Team was de­layed by the com­plex na­ture of the deal – par­tic­u­larly in­volv­ing Re­nault’s ‘his­tor­i­cal pay­ments’ from For­mula One Man­age­ment in light of its pre­vi­ous years in the sport. Talks be­gan last sum­mer, with Re­nault sign­ing a let­ter of in­tent in Septem­ber, but the deal was only con­cluded prior to Christ­mas.

The short han­dover time re­sulted in Re­nault un­veil­ing a 2015-de­sign show car with a new black and yel­low in­terim liv­ery. The new RS16 chal­lenger will be seen for the first time dur­ing pre-sea­son

test­ing in Barcelona later this month.

The team’s chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer Bob Bell said the de­lays in switch­ing from the fi­nan­cially strug­gling Lotus team to Re­nault put the pres­sure on for the start of this sea­son. “This year is a ques­tion of play­ing catch up,” he said. “En­stone has been starved of re­sources for at least the last year, and for good rea­son – the head count dropped, phys­i­cal re­source, ca­pa­bil­ity has dropped.

“For En­stone, par­tic­u­larly in the short term, it will be about build­ing that re­source back up again. Fun­da­men­tally the struc­ture is sound, and there is a very good nu­cleus of peo­ple to build on. The guts of it should be done in a twoyear pro­gramme. So it will be this year and 2017 be­fore we are pretty much at a level we think you can re­al­is­ti­cally com­pete and be in the top three. We are not go­ing to be rushed in to this.

“It is very def­i­nitely the case that Re­nault is in for the long haul. This year will be stabilising the sit­u­a­tion, and lay­ing some very ba­sic foun­da­tions for the fu­ture.

“Next year is about show­ing a step for­ward in ca­pa­bil­ity and per­for­mance. Then 2018 is about hav­ing a cred­i­ble tar­get for the team, and a per­for­mance step that will demon­strate Re­nault is back and is a very se­ri­ous com­peti­tor again.”

En­gine up­dates

While talks about the ac­qui­si­tion of the team were on­go­ing, Re­nault’s tech­ni­cal depart­ment at Viry-chatil­lon has been press­ing for­ward with a raft of up­dates to the En­ergy F1 power unit in an ef­fort to close the horse­power gap to Mercedes and Fer­rari.

As well as heavy re­vi­sions to the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine it­self, Re­nault plans to tap-in to the re­sources of the wider Re­nault-nis­san Al­liance, which in­cludes us­ing In­finiti to aid re­search and de­vel­op­ment of the hy­brid tech­nol­ogy around the en­gine.

Team head Cyril Abite­boul said: “In terms of en­gine de­vel­op­ment we are be­hind, but it’s not be­cause of this [the re­launch of the works team], it’s be­cause of what we have done our­selves. But there is re­ally very good stuff in the pipe­line, and for the first time we know what we have to do.

“It’s about im­ple­ment­ing that into the en­gine in a re­li­able, well-ex­e­cuted man­ner. It’s not go­ing to be all of it this year, it’s go­ing to take a bit of time, but we will do what we have to do.

“If you look back it took Red Bull five years [to win reg­u­larly], Mercedes five years, so ours is a very safe am­bi­tion. We can­not come in and say we will score podi­ums this year. We only com­pleted the ac­qui­si­tion of the team on De­cem­ber 18 so with the time­line it’s not pos­si­ble to score podi­ums [reg­u­larly] this year. Ev­ery­thing we do has to be to­ward the con­struc­tion of per­for­mance for 2017 and ’18, and in my opin­ion 2018 is ab­so­lutely pos­si­ble.”

Re­nault’s ‘new’ 2016 car liv­ery Bell: 2016 will be for re­build­ing

Pho­tos: Re­nault Sport, LAT

Re­nault head Car­los Ghosn says liv­ery may change for first race but will re­main “el­e­gant”

Lots of work is go­ing into En­ergy F1 PU

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