Renault: Some progress made, more to come this week

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Renault Sport F1 deputy managing director, technical, Rob White, said the engine manufacturer made some key strides this past week in Bahrain, but said there’s still a long ways to go before they’re satisfied with where they are on their power unit.

Energy Store changes were primarily hardware-related, and Power Unit changes primarily software-related. White explains more in detail via a Q&A on the official Formula One website.

“We have solved some problems and revealed some others,” White explained. “We are not back on schedule but we are moving in the right direction – the running we have done is very valuable. The challenge is to improve the rate of progress, because the gap to where we wanted to be at this stage remains substantial.”

The Bahrain test was not a chance for Renault to nail pace as yet.  The manufacturer’s best time, set Saturday by Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado, was more than five seconds off the pace of overall leader Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes W05.

If engine development is behind, so too is chassis work, White said.

“The immaturity of the PU combined with the time lost to incidents, means the chassis work to prepare for the season is also behind schedule,” he said. “From this point on we must pursue and accelerate an upward curve.”

Renault’s four teams: Red Bull, Lotus, Toro Rosso and Caterham, will have four more days this week to make those strides.

Testing restarts Thursday in Bahrain, as the last test session before the Australian Grand Prix weekend. Practice for that is set to begin Thursday night, March 13 (Friday in Melbourne).

Vettel edges Hamilton to lead opening Abu Dhabi GP practice

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Sebastian Vettel made a flying start to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend by leading the opening Formula 1 practice session at the Yas Marina Circuit for Ferrari on Friday afternoon.

A three-time winner in Abu Dhabi, Vettel enters the final race weekend of the season eager to score back-to-back victories for the first time in four years, having hit the top step of the podium last time out in Brazil.

Vettel sent out an early warning shot to Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by beating the recently-crowned drivers’ champion by one-tenth of a second in FP1, turning in a fastest time of 1:39.006.

Hamilton was left to settle for second place ahead of Max Verstappen, who finished a mere 0.148 seconds slower than Vettel for Red Bull.

Kimi Raikkonen took fourth after finishing half a second down on his teammate at the top of the timesheets, with Valtteri Bottas ending the session fifth in the second Mercedes.

Sergio Perez ended FP1 as the leading midfield driver in sixth for Force India ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, while Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10.

The final FP1 session of the year saw the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection appear on a number of cars ahead of its introduction for the 2018 season, with Bottas and Haas’ Antonio Giovinazzi among the drivers trialing it.

Giovinazzi was one of two junior drivers to feature in the session, with Force India running Mercedes youngster George Russell in place of Esteban Ocon. Russell ended the session 11th overall, while Giovinazzi took P18.