27 February 2016
Barcelona F1 Pre-season Test : Imagining place in pecking order not target for Renault
New racing director Frederic Vasseur insists that reliability will remain the focus of the Renault F1 team through the remainder of pre-season testing.
The Renault team insists that getting on top of reliability issues remains its goal for the F1 pre-season, rather than trying to work out where it might fall into the sport's power rankings.
Taking over from the cash-strapped Lotus team, and with an engine that left a lot to be desired in 2015, the regie already has a lot on its place as it attempts to close the gap on rivals Mercedes and Ferrari, and recently-appointed racing director Frederic Vasseur is not about to try and judge where it fits into a crowded midfield.
"To be honest, we have had so many things to do so far that we didn't spend the time to try and imagine where we could be on the first quali and the second quali and so on...," the erstwhile ASM and ART team boss commented, "But we knew that it would be very, very tough. We have to take it step-by-step: we are in Barcelona, we are improving, we made a good step between the first [day] and second and the second and third, so we want to continue like this and try to improve.
"It doesn't matter whether we start from eleven, ten, nine, seven, the target is the same. We know where we have to go - it doesn't matter where we started, we have to [get to] the target at the end. I think everybody is playing a game as it is difficult to know the level of fuel or the strategy on the engine and so on. At the end of the day, you can imagine where we are but, to be honest, that is not the target"
Despite the frustration of teething troubles with the RS16 - the team has naturally had to exchange Lotus' previous supply of Mercedes engines for its own V6s, but Vasseur insists that small steps were visible throughout the first pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya.
"The first two days were a bit difficult but, as we only started the engine on Monday morning at five o'clock, it was not a big surprise that we had to face some small issues" the Frenchman admitted, "However, today was a great improvement. We were able to do 63 laps this morning and it was the first time that we were able to collect huge data. It's a big step, but we have to stay focused on the reliability."
Despite the uncertainty over the team's future through the second half of 2015, caused in part by Renault's apparent prevarication over buying the ailing Lotus operation, Vasseur says he is impressed by a workforce still champing at the bit for success.
"I don't know how many people [remain from Fernando Alonso's championship years] and who was involved at that stage, but when we took over the company and when we joined Enstone, the day after we had a lot of people in the workshop with [1990s blue Renault shirts]," he noted with a smile, "Emotionally, it was important for us to see that everybody in the factory was attached to Renault and the project."
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