Renault expects to roll out a series of gradual enhancements to its power unit over the course of this year, rather than a major upgrade as was introduced last year, according to Renault Sport Racing Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul.
Abiteboul told the official Formula 1 website during this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix that no major step in performance upgrade would be rolled out in 2017.
Instead, he said Red Bull Racing was the one that had suggested a major upgrade would come at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku next race.
“Last year we created a huge expectation and we came with an upgrade that had a big impact. But we can’t repeat that every year,” Abiteboul told the F1 website.
“Frankly the next big upgrade will be next year. Then we will have a completely new concept. That will make a difference – but as I said 2018.”
In spite of the power gap to the Mercedes and Ferrari units, Renault has made it onto the podium each of the last three races with Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull – albeit aided a bit by some key retirements at both Spain and Canada and with both Mercedes (Monaco) and Ferrari (Canada) having relative off weekends.
The Renault factory team has improved this season, with Nico Hulkenberg’s fourth score of the season Sunday in Canada already moving the team ahead of its entire number of races scored last year. Between Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, that pairing scored in only three races for a total of eight points.
Hulkenberg now has four scores, and all 18 of Renault’s points for the season. Rumors surfaced over the weekend and were relayed during the NBCSN broadcast that Palmer’s place in the team may be under threat before the end of the year. The Englishman’s endured a difficult sophomore season and is yet to score in seven races.
We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.
And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.
After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.
In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.
Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.
“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.
“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.
“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”
Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.
“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”
Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.