Renault’s season hits low point with back-row lock-out in Baku

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Renault’s difficult return to Formula 1 hit a new low point in qualifying for the European Grand Prix on Saturday as it locked out the final row of the grid in Baku.

Renault returned to F1 as a constructor at the start of the year after taking over Lotus, and was braced for a tough job rebuilding the team after financial issues had blighted the Enstone operation.

With just six points scored in the first seven races of the season, Renault arrived in Baku for the European Grand Prix hopeful of adding to its paltry haul at a new race where all teams would arrive largely in the dark.

However, it proved to be a qualifying to forget as drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer ailed to P21 and P22 on the grid.

“The session was pretty straightforward with the simple factor that we’re not fast enough here,” Magnussen said.

“In FP3 we realized we didn’t have the relative pace with the car even if it was feeling quite good to drive so we tried something different with the set-up.

“Ultimately, it was good to try and it improved the car in some areas but didn’t in others. We knew this season would be tough at some moments, and this is certainly one of them!

“We have a plan for the future and that’s what we’re all working for. Yes, today didn’t look great but we’re learning all the time and this is bringing rewards.”

Palmer felt that there was more pace to be found in the R.S.16 car ahead of the race on Sunday.

“The potential is there for a huge amount more but it wasn’t to be today,” Palmer said.

“I had a really, really good second run but it had to be aborted due to yellow flags. Unfortunately I made a mistake on my final timed lap which lost me about half a second, and I had no tow over the start/finish line which is worth another few tenths.

“We could have been a lot quicker. It’s a tough track; it’s really fun to drive and I’ve enjoyed it so far. We have it all to do tomorrow so let’s see what happens.”

After seeing the backmarkers in GP2 score points thanks to a race of attrition on Saturday, Renault trackside operations director Alan Permane is refusing to give up on the weekend.

“You never throw in the towel in motorsport and we’ll be seeking every possible opportunity,” Permane said.

“We saw in today’s GP2 Series race that there is potential for a race of attrition so we need to ensure we’re in it at the end.

“If we have clean races with both of our cars pushing for every lap there’s still potential for a pleasant result.”

The European Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Sunday.