Renault: Verstappen should focus on his car rather than his engine

Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul has told Max Verstappen to focus on delivering performance from his Red Bull car rather than criticise the Renault engine powering it.

Verstappen has grown increasingly impatient with Renault this year as the French manufacturer has struggled to close the gap to pace setters Ferrari and Mercedes while experiencing continued reliability issues.

The latest ‘C-spec’ upgrade was delivered to Red Bull at the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month, offering a performance boost over the ‘B-spec’ still used by Renault and McLaren. However, drivability issues at the last round in Singapore saw Verstappen broadcast a series of frustrated messages over team radio at the night race despite qualifying and finishing second.

Red Bull, which switches to Honda power next year, has reverted to a ‘B-Spec’ engine this weekend in Sochi in order to avoid a penalty at circuits like Suzuka and Mexico later in the year when it hopes to be more competitive. The change in spec was planned well in advance with Red Bull according to Renault, but Verstappen indicated on Thursday in Russia that it was requested by the French manufacturer ahead of Mexico because they were not comfortable with the ‘C-spec’ running at high altitude.

Speaking on Friday, Abiteboul countered that that was not entirely true and advised Verstappen to stop moaning.

“I believe that it’s fair to say that any engine performs not as good at high altitude, but I guess the power increase that we have seen [from the C-spec] would have been equal in a track like Mexico so no, I don’t agree with those comments in general,” he said.

“I think Max should focus on the car. We do have reliability concerns and therefore it was clear that the engine introduced for Max would not have been able to do all the races so it was decided obviously to go to a different spec.

“But again that’s going to the plan agreed with Red Bull’s engineering department and not its driving department.”

Abiteboul also pointed out that Verstappen’s second place finish in Singapore was achieved with Renault power.

“We had a driveability issue in Singapore in FP1, early into the weekend and, to a far less extent, in qualifying,” he explained. “But I think we have a very demanding user in the person of Max, and not very quiet also.

“But I think the team has done a great job in order to provide Max what was needed in order to have a good weekend in Singapore, it’s very clear. As far as the introduction of the previous-spec engine is concerned, again, that was part of the plan.

“The C-spec, as we call it, is a good step. I think it is a good step that everyone recognises, that Red Bull has a clear step in power that comes also with a certain number of limitations. That was part of the plan to introduce, at a later stage, a B-spec. It’s a bit unusual in terms of pattern — but again it’s a pattern and a plan that was fully agreed, specifically on the request of Red Bull.”