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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.”

Heat gets to some drivers at sun-soaked Hungarian Grand Prix

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Daniel Ricciardo described Max Verstappen’s driving as “amateur” after his Red Bull teammate knocked him out of the Hungarian Grand Prix, while two other drivers were involved in a post-race feud on Sunday.

With the asphalt track temperatures well over 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), the heat in Hungary seemingly got to some drivers.

German driver Nico Hulkenberg was also unhappy with Danish driver Kevin Magnussen.

With less than 10 laps to go, Hulkenberg tried to overtake him on the outside but Magnussen – who earlier this week was openly critical of three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton’s driving during practice – shunted Hulkenberg into the grass.

“I’m all for hard racing but he was just ruthless by pushing me off track,” Hulkenberg said.

They then argued in front of the television cameras in the media area after the race, with Hulkenberg labeling him “nasty” and Magnussen aiming a profane retort back at the Renault driver.

At least those two are on different teams and don’t have to spend any time with each other.

Verstappen, who last season drew stern criticism from Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen for his somewhat reckless style, knocked Ricciardo out of the race on Turn 2 of the first lap.

Verstappen swerved into him left-to-right when going wide on the exit from a turn.

“That was amateur to say the least,” an irate Ricciardo told broadcaster Sky Sports afterward.

Verstappen, who at 19 years old is seen as the future star of the sport, seems to be more aware of his limitations these days.

While last season he was unapologetic over his daring, sometimes abrasive driving style, he seems more mature this season.

Ricciardo earned no points on Sunday. But he did earn something rare in F1: an apology from Verstappen.

“It is never my intention to hit anyone, but especially not your teammate. Especially with the relationship I have with Daniel, it’s always really good and we can always have a laugh,” he said. “I apologize to Daniel for that and also to the team because we could have scored some good points here.”

At least they will seemingly head into the summer break on better terms.

“I’ll speak with Daniel in private and we’ll sort it out,” said Verstappen, who finished the race in fifth and is sixth overall in the standings.

Ricciardo is fourth, with five podium finishes in the past seven races.

“It was pleasing to see Max put his hand up and immediately apologize,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “We all move on.”

The next race, after a month-long break, is the Belgian GP in Spa, nestled in the Ardennes forest.

At least temperatures there will be somewhat cooler.

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.

Renault beats Force India in midfield scrap at British GP

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In the battle of Formula 1’s midfield, Renault Sport F1 Team won the day in Sunday’s British Grand Prix, with Nico Hulkenberg delivering a sixth place for the Enstone-based squad as “best of the rest” behind the two Mercedes, single Ferrari and two Red Bulls that were in the top five.

Hulkenberg and Renault have tended to fade this year in the races when they’ve had qualifying pace. But after qualifying a season-best sixth on Saturday, which became fifth on the grid with Valtteri Bottas’ grid penalty for a gearbox change, Hulkenberg backed it up on Sunday.

The German was poised for a top-five finish before Daniel Ricciardo came calling in the final laps in the Renault-powered, TAG Heuer-badged Red Bull.

Alas, Hulkenberg matched his season best result of sixth (Spanish Grand Prix) and was happy to have finished ahead of both Sahara Force Indias for his best career finish at Silverstone. He’d come seventh here for Force India each of the last two years.

“It felt good. Very good actually,” Hulkenberg told NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race. “I expected not too much but it was a positive surprise the pace and the balance were there. From Saturday to Sunday we scratched our heads with grip. But today it worked really well in our favor. We outpaced the Force Indias which is great news, and I didn’t see it coming at all.

“I think it’s couple things. It’s a high speed nature flowing tracks which suits the car better. I love the high speed stuff. I love this track,” he added about why he thought the race went better.

Hulkenberg said the car’s new floor and other updates to come will see Renault further up the order. This gives him and the team 26 points for the year – teammate Jolyon Palmer was unable to add to that with a brake-by-wire failure sidelining him before the race even started.

“This was an important thing for us to bring this floor and for it to deliver a big impact,” Hulkenberg said. “I know there is more coming for Budapest. I think the first half is decent – get to the points every now and then. But at this rate of progression we are looking for more vs. Haas, Williams and Force India and to take more points off them.”

Force India got both its cars home in the points again with Esteban Ocon finishing ahead of Sergio Perez for the first time this year, the pair ending in eighth and ninth. This marks the eighth time in 10 races Force India has banked a double points finish as they are a solid fourth in the constructor’s championship.

Neither was particularly thrilled with the result though, having been behind Renault at the weekend.

“Well I think it was a brilliant start. Felt like four-wheel drive!” Ocon told NBCSN. “We gained two positions. Then he took the place back. Great improvement on my side. There was a points finish again and we have to keep going.

“Sometimes they are faster than us. But it’s not consistent over the year. Maybe they drop a bit in the next race.”

Perez added to NBCSN, “It was a very difficult race today. Everything got complicated. We had much more pace than what we showed today. We didn’t get to show our true pace. Renault beat us big time. I couldn’t recover from the start. I think I managed my tires well. Silverstone is one of the most difficult tracks to overtake given how fast it is.”

Felipe Massa got the final point for Williams Martini Racing in 10th place, with one point a good result for the team as it celebrates his 40th anniversary in Formula 1. This extends Williams’ points-scoring streak to five races running. Lance Stroll endured a tough weekend, ending 16th, and ending his own three-race streak of scores.

Haas F1 Team’s longest ever run of consecutive points scores ended at five this race, with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean unable to better 12th and 13th. Magnussen ran in the points most of the race but ran a longer first stint on softs and switched to supersofts. Despite starting 10th after being frustrated on Saturday, Grosjean never looked a points scorer and had late-race contact with a Sauber that set him back.

McLaren got Stoffel Vandoorne home to the flag in a season-best 11th place, one spot shy of his first points finish of the year. Meanwhile Fernando Alonso reported in yet another loss of power and retired the car. His Q1 heroics on slick tires on a damp track stand as his highlight of the weekend.

Things were worse down Toro Rosso way, the pair of drivers in Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. colliding on the first lap. Sainz was done on the spot while Kvyat got a drive-through penalty for an unsafe re-entry and two more penalty points assessed, giving him nine in a 12-month period.

Sainz lamented another tough race when speaking to NBCSN.

“I don’t comment too much on FIA penalties, but not an ideal situation when we take each other out. It is a frustrating situation as one can imagine,” he said.

“I normally do (have confidence in him) which is why I gave a lot of space to him for the same piece of tarmac, but when one car loses control and hits the back of you, you can’t do anything but turn the page for Hungary.”

The midfield battle in the Constructor’s Championship sees Force India a clear fourth, Williams still fifth with Toro Rosso and Haas having lost a key opportunity to score today and Renault making a big push to get up to sixth as a result of Hulkenberg’s eight-point haul.

Strong British GP qualifying for Renault; Hulkenberg P5, Palmer P11

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Renault Sport F1 Team put together its best performance of qualifying this season for Sunday’s British Grand Prix (7:30 a.m. ET, CNBC) as Nico Hulkenberg posted yet another great under-the-radar lap and the under-fire Jolyon Palmer turned in one of his best laps of the year.

Hulkenberg qualified sixth, winning the unofficial best of the rest battle behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. With Daniel Ricciardo knocked out in Q1 with an apparent turbo issue on his Renault-powered, TAG Heuer-badged car, it opened up a spot on the third row for someone from the crowded midfield to emerge.

Valtteri Bottas’ five-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change knocks the Mercedes driver back to ninth and promotes Hulkenberg to a season-best fifth on the grid, and along with that his best qualifying effort since joining Renault at the start of the year.

Hulkenberg hailed both the team’s strategic calls from the pitwall during the rain-affected session and the upgrades that have come this weekend, as Renault celebrates its 40 year anniversary in Formula 1 since 1977.

“Today we had a very successful qualifying and will start the race just behind the top teams,” Hulkenberg said. “I had a good rhythm and we had good times. The team made the right calls for the right track conditions; there was a nice flow. I was feeling calm and confident with the car so I was able to produce a good lap.

“The upgrades we brought here this weekend seemed to also have played their part in our step forward. That said, tomorrow’s race is the true test. Let’s try and have a clean race. We’ll push very hard and I’ll be very happy to bring points home.”

Hulkenberg has scored 14 points this year, with a best finish of sixth place in Spain.

Palmer remains yet to score but was pleased with his performance, having only just missed Q3 to McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

“Yeah starting P11 is my second best all year. There’s a really good feeling with the car,” Palmer told NBCSN’s Will Buxton. “I needed maybe a tenth to beat Stoffel but I’m still happy with that.

“Normally I start further back! I’m confident. If there’s the normal chaos I’m pretty confident we can get some points.”

Sporting Director Alan Permane hailed both drivers’ efforts.

“We are of course very happy with the result today,” he said. “The aero updates used this weekend for the first time worked well and Jolyon just missed out on Q3 by the narrowest of margins.

“Nico is well placed for the race and Jo has a free tire choice so we’re looking forward to the start and converting the result today to points tomorrow.”