Abiteboul: Renault faces ‘short term pressure’ despite 2021 focus

Esteban Ocon during post-season testing for Renault

Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul admits that his team faces “short term pressure” next year but still has its eyes firmly on 2021.

The Renault F1 Team finished fifth in this year’s constructors’ championship, one position behind engine customer McLaren, and failed to trouble the established big three.

Having returned to Formula 1 as a fully fledged constructor in 2016, the headline result was something of a stall in Renault’s progress after taking ninth, sixth, and then fourth in the constructors’ standings in the preceding seasons.

Abiteboul acknowledges that there is pressure to improve immediately but maintains that the team’s focus is still on the 2021 season, when sweeping technical changes take effect.

“Everything in our programme has been built around that long-term target of 2021 because, in accordance to our strategy, that’s really the first opportunity to make that happen,” he said.

“But before 2021, there is 2019, there is 2020.

“And there is a short term result and a short term pressure that everyone is putting on all of us. And that’s fine. Again, that’s part of the sport.”

Renault is also still without a podium since it got back into F1 as a constructor, with its best showing of 2019 coming in Monza, where Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth and Nico Hulkenberg fifth.

While it was outdone by McLaren over the course of the season, Abiteboul is confident that Renault can still catch Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull.

“There’s been many tough moments. There’s been good moments also,” he observed.

“I think it’s important to take a bit of distance, so if you ask me, it’s really to manage, to learn about the resilience that you need in that sport.

“Sometimes people believe how difficult it is as a sport, as a business also, given the difficulty and the way that the world is changing. We are on a ramp up.

“The difficulty first is to maintain that P4 position now that McLaren has been able to come back from where they were before.

“The main difficulty will be not to stay P5 or P4 because we should not be content with that but to bridge the gap with the top teams.

“That will be the next difficulty and still the target for us. It’s a target for 2021.”

Ricciardo ultimately finished ninth in the drivers’ championship while Hulkenberg, whose seat will be taken by Esteban Ocon, ended up 14th.