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Renault not giving up in chase of Williams in F1 teams’ standings

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Renault is refusing to give up in its bid for a top-five finish in this year’s Formula 1 constructors’ championship despite trailing Williams by over 20 points heading into the final flyaway rounds of the season.

Renault returned to F1 in 2016 as a constructor after six years away, and has made progress through its second season back, scoring over four times as many points as in the entirety of the previous campaign.

Renault set a top-five finish in the teams’ standings as its pre-season target, but sits eighth with seven races remaining on 34 points, 21 back from Williams in P5.

Nevertheless, team chief Cyril Abiteboul says the Enstone crew remains determined to give its all through the closing stages of the season, not relenting in its bid to catch Williams.

“We are now focusing on these busy Asia rounds. Williams sit just 21 points ahead of us in fifth place
in the constructors’ championship and, with seven races to go, it’s very much in our capability to chase
that down by the end of the season,” Abiteboul said.

“We need to create some momentum and string together some consistent results with both cars inside the top ten. Singapore will be vital to kick start this effort.”

Abiteboul confirmed in Renault’s pre-race preview that two personnel changes had come into play in time for Singapore, intended to boost its bid to catch Williams.

“Track side, from the Singapore Grand Prix, Matthieu Dubois takes on the role of head of race strategy of Renault Sport Formula 1 Team. He will functionally report to our Sporting Director Alan Permane,” Abiteboul said.

“Matthieu joined Renault Sport in 1998 where he has held various positions including the one of Race Strategist at Enstone from 2008 to 2012. Up until now, Matthieu has been in charge of the customer track teams (Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso).

“Simultaneously, Ricardo Penteado, head of the engine track service, will take the direct responsibility for all three teams. In his day to day activities, he will be supported by the lead engineer from each team. He will also be in charge of liaising with our customers at the track.”

Questions linger for Renault over Kubica’s readiness for F1 return

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Renault still does not have all the answers it requires to decide whether or not Robert Kubica is ready to make a full-time return to Formula 1 for 2018 despite an impressive test performance by the Pole in Hungary.

Kubica’s F1 career looked to have ended abruptly in 2011 when he suffered severe injuries to his right arm in a rally accident over the winter break, only for him to make a number of steps towards a single-seater return this year.

Two strong private runs in a 2012-spec car led to Kubica featuring at the collective post-Hungarian Grand Prix test, impressing behind the wheel of the 2017 Renault F1 car and against his peers.

All of Kubica’s performances have fuelled speculation he could be on the cusp of a return to F1 in 2018 with Renault, but team boss Cyril Abiteboul said on Friday that he does not quite have all the answers required to know if a comeback is possible.

“Frankly, we said that we wanted to be extremely methodical and analytical about the way we were approaching things with Robert,” Abiteboul said.

“It’s not a PR exercise, it’s not a coup. It’s something we are taking very seriously and we are trying to leave the emotion on the side.

“We don’t have all the answers that we potentially wanted to get from that test, after his test. In relation to that, Formula 1 is very restrictive in terms of tests you can do, so in a perfect world we would want to do more of this type of test to see if he can race again at the level that he and we could have wanted.

“It may or may not be possible. We will see.”

Abiteboul confirmed that Renault would need to make a call on Kubica in the near future as it looks to decide on its driver plans for the 2018 season.

“Deciding on Robert is deciding our line-up the second part of our line-up for next year,” Abiteboul said.

“It’s well reported that Nico [Hulkenberg] has a multi-year contract when Jo [Palmer] has a one-year contract. So obviously we have one driver to decide for next year.

“So we have also the restrictions I was referring to on Robert and we’ll also need to consistent with the timing of deciding for a second driver and as the market is starting to sort of go, with the different announcements this week of Ferrari and McLaren.

“I expect there will be some other announcements at some points, because usually these things do not go in isolation, so we cannot just be sitting on our work and making up our plans and our timing ourselves.

“It has to follow the timing of all the drivers.”

Renault still chasing top-five F1 constructors’ championship finish

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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul remains confident that the team can secure a top-five finish in this years’ constructors’ championship despite sitting eighth with half of the season complete.

Renault returned to F1 with a works team in 2016, but struggled to make much of an impression on-track as it recovered from the financial difficulties that blighted the Lotus team it took over.

While progress has been clear through 2017, the team already more than tripling its points total, it has still struggled to make much of an impact on F1’s midfield.

Nico Hulkenberg has led Renault’s charge, scoring all 26 of it points so far this season, taking an impressive sixth-place finish at Silverstone last weekend.

Renault boldly stated in pre-season that it was targeting a top-five finish in the constructors’ championship, and while it may still be three places shy heading towards the summer break, Abiteboul’s goal remains unchanged.

“We have shown at Silverstone that we are continuing to improve. Chassis developments, in particular the new floor, proved to be positive exemplified from Nico’s eight points and both cars showing strong qualifying pace,” Abiteboul said.

“It’s critical to back up this improvement with both cars finishing in the top ten in Hungary – we want to finish the first half of the season on a positive note.

“To achieve this, we need to put behind our reliability problems. We know our situation and the areas which require more attention.

“Our targets remain unchanged: we want to be sixth by the end of play on 30th July and fifth by the end of the season. A double-points finish is well within our reach.”

Renault currently sits seven points behind sixth-placed Toro Rosso in the constructors’ championship, and 15 shy of Williams in P5.

Kubica ‘could become an option’ for 2018 Renault F1 seat

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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul has admitted that Robert Kubica could become an option for a race seat in 2018 following a successful second test at Paul Ricard earlier this week.

Kubica raced in F1 between 2006 and 2010, claiming one grand prix win, before injuries sustained in a rally accident to his right hand and arm cut his single-seater career short.

The Pole made a return to motorsport in the World Rally Championship, but began to move towards a return to single-seaters earlier this year with tests in GP3 and Formula E machinery.

Renault gave Kubica a relaxed test in a 2012-spec F1 car last month, only for his performance to prompt the French manufacturer to give him a proper run earlier this week at Paul Ricard to assess his ability.

Abiteboul confirmed on Friday at Silverstone that Kubica’s second test had been successful, but did not want to get ahead of himself when discussing a possible racing return.

“We decided after the first test he’s done for fun just to get a feeling for a single-seater Formula 1 car, we decided to go one step further which is the other test that we’ve done in Paul Ricard this week,” Abiteboul told NBCSN.

“He has completed a lot of mileage, consistently, with lots of methodology, lots of enthusiasm as always with Robert.

“But one thing I don’t want is to get carried away by what we’ve done. There is a big step between doing a private test somewhere with an old car, a V8 that is turned down, and a modern car in a racing context. Let’s go step by step.”

Abiteboul did, however, concede that Kubica could be an option for Renault in an F1 race seat for 2018, but that more progress would need to be made.

“Robert is someone we could be envisaging for next year. It’s clear that we have to look at options for the future,” Abiteboul said.

“He could become one option for the future. It is not what is being discussed right now, so I don’t want to create more speculation than this.”

When asked what the next step in the plan with Kubica was, Abiteboul said: “No plan. It’s a bit too early.

“We need to look at the data from the last test and look at how we could be moving forward for next season, but there is plenty of time.”

Renault denies speculation Kubica could enter Monza FP1

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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul has denied speculation suggesting that Robert Kubica could appear in first practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in September.

Kubica raced in F1 between 2006 and 2010, with his final full-season in the sport being completed with Renault before sustaining severe injuries to his right arm that appeared to end his single-seater career.

After a number of years in rallying, Kubica has recently tested a number of different cars, culminating in an outing in a 2012-spec Lotus F1 at Valencia earlier this month.

The reportedly-impressive test has led to speculation that Kubica could be capable of making a full-time return to F1 in the future, with paddock chatter in Montreal suggesting that an FP1 run-out at Monza was being discussed.

However, Abiteboul was quick to shoot this down during Friday’s FIA press conference, saying that it would not be happening.

“No, absolutely not. I don’t know where this is coming from and I can completely wipe that one out,” Abiteboul said.

“Robert has been a family member of the Enstone team, and Eric on my right knows what I mean. He has been very close and very loyal. The team in Enstone, which is a very small group of people, actually have been very loyal to a number of drivers.

“People feel very loyal and feel they owe something to Robert for making something big in their life and there was this opportunity that we give to him, that we could afford to him to drive again, because it was actually a marketing event that got cancelled, so we had a car available at the track and we offered that opportunity to him.

“Robert is going through some form of program to try to understand what he can do. He has been driving a number of cars, Formula E, GP3, F2, LMP2, you name it, so I think he wants to understand what he can do as part of his sort of rehabilitation program.

“We’ll see. There is nothing else that is planned for the time being, apart from a marketing event at Goodwood, where he will be driving the same car, E20, in front of Lord March’s house.”

Kubica’s links to the Renault seat come at a time when Jolyon Palmer is coming under increasing pressure after a point-less start to the year, leading to suggestions he could be replaced mid-season.

“Our situation is very clear: he has a contract with us,” Abiteboul said of Palmer.

“We are completely committed to helping him get through the period, which is a tough period, that’s obvious.

“He has no ultimatum, but having said that he has to deliver, like every single member of the team.”