With five drivers known to be taking engine penalties and thus unlikely to run in Q2, Renault realised that it might be able to guarantee 11th and 12th places – and thus have the advantage of a free choice of tyres for the start.
Renault has in general been harder on its tyres than rivals this year, and the team wanted to avoid the requirement to start on the hypersofts.
When three of the penalised drivers made Q2, the team knew that simply by not running and not setting a time, its drivers would start 11th and 12th.
Abiteboul hopes the decision sends a message to F1 bosses to consider changes to the rules.
“It’s a bit strange, a bit awkward to decide voluntarily not to try your best,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.
“It does say something in my opinion about the whole situation between penalties and tyres and degradation and starting tyres being your Q2 tyres and so forth.
“If anything it sends a small message to all the people setting the rules.
“We’ve been talking about trying to secure 11th and 12th since quite a long time this season, because it’s clearly an advantage.
“And every single time we concluded there is no way you can guarantee this is what you get, there is no way in targeting 11th or 12th or whatever.
“For the first time it was very clear it was possible on the back of penalties.”
Abiteboul said all scenarios were discussed in advance.
“We planned it before Q1. There were a couple of things we wanted to monitor, what would be the cars remaining in Q2, because if the five cars remaining in Q2 were the ones taking penalties we could have been able to go into Q3 with any tyre, which would have been interesting, and then have a normal Q3 on hypersoft.
“And the second thing we wanted to see in Q1 was our potential pace if we were to go for a normal, straightforward qualifying session, where would we end up in Q3.
“If you can really start in P5, it’s better than starting P11, but it was clear unfortunately that given our pace here we would not be able to do be P5, The best strategy was then to be P11 and P12.”
“So we decided to actually go for it, and go to the end of our constant speculation about the fact that it’s probably a better position in the current set-up.
“It was very visible in Singapore, 11th, 12th, 13th, they finished seven, eight, nine or something like that, which was extreme. But pretty much each time the hypersoft is out that’s pretty much what happens for this group of teams.”
Abiteboul admitted that the high chance of a first-lap incident propelling the cars up the order also contributed to the decision to target 11th and 12th.
“We also need to balance that with the safety car possibility, it’s quite high here in the opening laps of the race, that’s something we need to take on board.
“If there is an incident at the start you don’t want to be on softs for instance, it kills your race. That decision was straightforward to make, we still have a bigger decision, which is which starting tyre.”