Renault look to overturn 'tough start' to F1 season

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Renault's Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo will face a three-place grid penalty after colliding with Daniil Kvyat in Baku

Renault say they are hoping this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix will be an opportunity to "reset" after a disappointing start to the year.

The team's aim is to close on the top three teams but they are seventh in the championship after four races.

They have suffered poor reliability and have the second slowest car based on average qualifying time.

"It's been a tough start to the year," said Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul. "We know we are capable of much more."

"The Azerbaijan Grand Prix capped off a run of results that fell short of our expectations.

"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."

Renault, with big-money signing Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg, have only twice in eight opportunities managed to get cars into the top 10 in qualifying.

In addition to an intermittent lack of pace, recurring problems with their engine have caused four retirements in eight races and the need for replacement parts is almost certainly going to mean grid penalties later in the season.

The difficulties are a setback for Renault, who returned to F1 as a factory entry in 2016 saying they wanted to be ready to compete for wins by 2020, and have invested heavily in improving facilities at their factory in Oxfordshire, where the car is designed and built.

The engine department at Viry-Chatillon near Paris has narrowed the performance gap on standard-setters Mercedes and Ferrari after lagging behind for several years but reliability has continued to be a problem.

The car has shown pace on occasion this year, such as getting both cars into the top 10 on the grid for the third race in China, but the last race in Baku was a nadir for Renault.

Ricciardo's team-mate Nico Hulkenberg lacked pace all weekend and did not make it past the first stage of qualifying.

And Ricciardo retired in embarrassing fashion when he tangled with Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat while disputing 10th place and then reversed into the Russian's car while trying to rejoin the track.

The Australian was handed a three-place grid penalty for the Spanish race for his error.

Abiteboul said: "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."

Technical director Nick Chester said: "We weren't able to piece together a strong weekend in Baku and we left disappointed.

"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."

Chester said Renault had "a number of reasonable upgrades" for the Spanish race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya but admitted that "most other teams will do the same".


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