Cyril Abiteboul of Renault Sport has claimed in a recent press conference the French manufacturer wants to “put this first season behind us.” This comes following a dismal 2016 campaign which has yielded just 6 points – all taken from Kevin Magnussen’s 7th place in the Russian Grand Prix.
His reasons for making such a claim? “Simply because it’s a first season, or season zero frankly,” he told media on Friday. He also reiterated that Renault “are not just here to make up the figures,” and unsurprisingly they, “are here for the long term and to be a very competitive outfit.”
He also thanked the efforts of all the support crew and team members around him for the season, saying: “ten months ago none of what we are today was in existence, so I think we need to give credit to everyone for the job that has been achieved.”
Renault took over the Lotus team at the end of 2015 after their prolonged financial struggles saw them unlikely to compete under their own steam in 2016. Renault acquired all of the previous assets at Lotus and many key staff members such as the experienced Alan Permane and Nick Chester. The most significant change in the takeover was the departure of driver, Pastor Maldonado. Being a manufacturer, Renault didn’t need the extra cash that Maldonado carried and thus replaced him with former McLaren prodigy, Kevin Magnussen.
Given the lateness of the takeover, no one expected much of the Renault outfit. And to some degree they had exceeded expectations early in the season. 11th and 12th in the opening race had many hoping for more – but it never came. After a lucky 7th in Russia and a mistake costing Jolyon Palmer points in Hungary, Renault have failed too make an actual impression.
Coming back too Cyril Abiteboul’s comments, he also hinted toward the future of the team. Originally he was asked about whether or not Renault were interested in a big name driver. “If you look at all the key success factors for all successful teams, there was always a symbolic ambassador who was a driver,” he responded. Then he got on to Renault’s decision, saying: “It will be important but in my opinion it is too early to focus on that aspect only.”
This sheds light on who Renault will be looking at if they are going to alter their driver line up for 2017. Current drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer are yet to have their futures sealed, but if Renault seem adamant they aren’t going after a big name driver, their futures could be much more clear. However, Esteban Ocon wouldn’t be considered in this category – and he is likely still putting both under immense pressure.
Ultimately, it’s clear that Renault are still rebuilding – and given this attitude toward 2017, I feel that is still going to be ‘year zero and a half’, given they are in know rush to acquire the assets they still need to become a true front running team. But then again, who knows what 2017 will throw up?