Q&A with Abiteboul, Budkowski and Taffin

What is your state of mind going into the team’s fifth season?
Cyril Abiteboul: The previous years have centred around reconstruction across both facilities and human resources. This phase is now complete and now need to do justice to our ambitions and road map. 2019 was a challenging year, but not without its merits. It provided a reminder of what it takes to succeed in this sport and the high level of competition. More specifically, last season enabled us to take stock of our strengths and weaknesses at the end of our initial construction period and to take appropriate action.

We approach this new season with humility and ambition. Humility as the challenge is huge for every team, every coming year and we are not the exceptions. When we returned to a changed and increasingly competitive sport in 2016, we expressed our ambitions to be world champions, and we set the bar high for every staff member. We need to adhere to this initial plan, without succumbing to the short-term objectives that take us away from our end goal.

What do you expect from the team in 2020?
CA: 2020 is above all a pivotal year that marks the end of one cycle and the preparatory phase of another. This year must see us setting the best possible course for the major regulation changes of 2021. The organisational changes made in the second half of 2019 are with this firmly in mind. A great opportunity is on the horizon with the technical and sporting regulation changes and we must anticipate the chance and make sure that we are fully ready to seize it. This type of challenge is motivating as it represents the first opportunity since our return in 2016 to build a fully-integrated car from a blank page.

For the coming season, which starts next week in Barcelona, we must respect the three priorities identified during the off-season: reliability from the get-go; ensure a high level of development very early in the season and have a good conversion rate on track. However, we also need to regain confidence and reinforce team spirit to get the best from everyone, and to maximise our chances each race weekend during this unprecedented long and challenging season.

Taking back fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship remains the objective over a season that will be more hotly-contested than ever.

The team has a new driver line-up for 2020, what are you expecting from Daniel and Esteban?
CA: This coming season is revitalised by the arrival of Esteban, who brings with him fresh energy. Both he and Daniel are both exceptionally motivated. Esteban returns to a seat after a year out and wants to show he deserves to race in F1. You can see the hunger in his eyes. Daniel has a year of experience with the team and can see its motivation. We need this kind of push. F1 needs everyone at the top of their game and having two drivers spurring everyone on is an immense motivation tool for the entire team and a source of pride for the whole of Groupe Renault.

What have been the main changes at Enstone over the past year?
Marcin Budkowski: 2019 has been a year of change at Enstone. Some changes have been very visible and public, especially on the technical side, but we have also made extensive changes throughout the operation. This is the consolidation phase of the project, following a period of intense recruitment and growth over the last four years. There are still areas where we need to be stronger, and we’re continuing to grow in a targeted way. In parallel, we’ve improved our infrastructure, notably with upgrades to the wind tunnel and an extensive renewal of manufacturing tools. We’re keeping up with the best in these fields and we’re continuing to invest in technology to catch them and then move past!

Amongst the high-profile recruits is Pat Fry, what will he bring to the team?
MB: Pat joins us with a wealth of experience in engineering from a number of top teams. His background is wide-ranging, from trackside race engineering to overseeing car designs and managing technical teams. From a personality point of view, he also has a lot of drive and a very strong ability to focus on the things that really matter to make a car go quicker.

His expertise will be of strategic use in the development of the 2021 car as well as for the R.S.20. The latter’s principal characteristics were already determined a few months ago and it is more of an evolution of the R.S.19. As such, its potential progress is limited, but it is an informed decision based on the resources we have at our disposal and our mid-term ambitions.

How challenging will it be to find the balance between managing the 2020 season and keeping half an eye on 2021?
MB: Finding the balance between the 2020 and 2021 car projects will be a huge challenge, of a scale that is probably unprecedented in Formula 1. You always try to start new cars as early as possible but it’s even more valuable when you have a big change in regulations, and the 2021 regulations are nothing short of a revolution. Of course, our ambition is to have a good 2020 season, but we are aiming to transition to 2021 as early as possible as we expect the slope of development for the new car to be very steep.

Remi has been part of Renault‘s Formula 1 involvement since 1999 and currently takes overall responsibility for the power unit developed at the Viry-Châtillon site. Remi ensures the team of engineers produce an optimised unit that works in perfect harmony with the chassis.

What are your aims for the Power Unit in 2020?
Remi Taffin: It was important that we made a decent step in performance on the power unit last year. Now it’s about delivering that level of performance at each race. Throughout the end of the season we demonstrated this capability. The Monza result is an example of the progression we made on the power unit. There’s little that has changed for 2020 but we aim to integrate the engine into the car as best as possible and therefore making the whole system more efficient.

How have the new facilities at Viry aided Power Unit development?
RT: It’s clear in order to be successful in Formula 1 you need the resources. There have been large changes at Enstone and now at Viry we’re in the process of constructing a large facility to accommodate the growing need for added technology. We’re looking to improve fluidity in our design and development process. Our dynos are state of the art and we’re well placed heading into the season.

What is the atmosphere at Viry like heading into the year?
RT: At Viry there’s a real energy. Last season fell below our expectations but it’s important to learn from it and put that into practice this year. We had some great performances and the power of the engine is clear to see. There’s a new dynamic in the team with Esteban joining Daniel. In turn, that acts as motivation for staff who want to find performance and put the hard work in order for the best possible season.