Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport Racing Managing Director: We always knew the Russian Grand Prix would be challenging, but we target top ten finishes for both cars at every Grand Prix and it’s disappointing to leave a race weekend without points.
In Sochi, we established a clear strategic plan. It didn’t pay off in the race due to a number of circumstances; some in our control, some not, but that’s racing and we continue to learn and progress as a team week on week.
Five races remain in 2018. Five races to define our season and to meet our objective of finishing fourth in the Constructors’ Championship. We’ve defended it since Spain, and now we have to see it through to Abu Dhabi. We set high standards in the first part of the year and that’s what we set out to achieve at every race.
Japan is next up. It’s a special Grand Prix on the Formula 1 calendar, a race loved by fans, teams and drivers alike. Our goal will be to get both cars back in the points, as always, and we now need to mobilise everything to realise this.
With five races left in 2018 the team heads to Japan, with continued ambition. Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester discusses the challenges of Suzuka and what it will take to stay ahead in fourth place.
What’s there to say about Suzuka?
Nick Chester: Suzuka is an interesting track. It’s a handling circuit, especially through the first sector, which is quite high-speed with a lot of changes of direction. Good stability, a medium to high downforce balance and a good front end is required to give the drivers a predictable car which still has good change of direction. Suzuka has a couple of fast straights like the run down to turn one, and the one leading into 130R. There’s a balance to strike as we need enough wing in order to get the car pinned down for sector one and the early part of sector two without being too slow on the straights.
What’s Suzuka like for a modern Formula 1 car?
NC: The first sector especially will be very quick this year. It was fast last year in this generation of car, but with more tyre grip and a high level of downforce, sector one will be impressive.
What’s the verdict on the tyre choice?
NC: Pirelli will provide something more durable for Japan with the Medium, Soft and Supersoft tyres. They should be better in the race than in Russia, for example, where we saw a lot of degradation and wear on the softer compounds. I’d expect most teams to run the Supersoft and Soft in the race. These tyres are more graining resistant than the Ultrasoft or Hypersoft.
How’s the mood in the camp after Sochi?
NC: It’s always disappointing not to score points and when we reflect on the weekend, as ever, there are things which we could have done better. We had a poor Q1 and we made the decision to not run in Q2. That’s an unusual situation to be in, but with free tyre choice for eleventh place on the grid, it becomes something to think about. It’s a function of the regulations. We could have done a better job in the race, which might have given Nico some points. Carlos had extensive damage to the floor and sidepod vane and that lost him a second per lap. He couldn’t do much, but he drove a good race in a very difficult car.
Will there be anything new for Suzuka?
NC: We don’t have anything major planned, as the races are a week apart. We’ll try and fly out a new-spec floor after Carlos’ incident. We have a couple of smaller parts for the races beyond that.
How can we edge ahead in fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship?
NC: We have to try and get everything out of the car. We need to make sure we have the best balance, plan and execute the best strategy and take the best approach to qualifying. There isn’t so much more we can bring at this point in the year in terms of development, it’s about trying to get everything out of each race. We remain confident.