26 June 2016
F1 Austrian Grand Prix: Renault admits mid-season 'harder than expected'
The Renault F1 team is hoping that the quicker circuits next up on the world championship calendar will help it find better fortune after a tough few races.
Renault's disappointing performances early in the 2016 F1 season might have been accepted given the late hand-over from Lotus, but the team admits that its recent run of results has been a frustration no-one really saw coming.
The Enstone team has only six points this season, stemming from Kevin Magnussen's seventh place finish in Russia, but, while that keeps the regie above scoreless Sauber and Manor in the constructors' table, a lack of tangible improvement through eight rounds, culminating in Magnussen and team-mate Jolyon Palmer sharing the back row in Baku, has been a shock to the system.
"The last three races have been harder than expected, possibly more difficult than we anticipated at the start of the year," managing director Cyril Abiteboul concedes, "However, nothing changes our long-term objectives; we just need to re-assess how we get to them in the short- and mid-term.
"We have already introduced our power unit upgrade and we know that this is one of the strongest parts of the car at present. We have also taken some steps in mechanical grip and balance and both drivers are happier with the car behaviour.
"With our strengths identified, it is much easier to work on our weaknesses. In particular, we need to target improvements in qualifying and aero, and we have a plan for both of these areas. Every race is an opportunity to learn more and to keep taking those steps to be where we want to be by the end of the season."
With four races in five weeks looming in July, chief technical officer Bob Bell is hoping that moving away from the tighter layouts exhibited in Monaco and Montreal - and, in some parts of Baku - will allow the RS16 to claw back ground on its rivals.
"Austria is an important race for us as the low-speed corner circuit layouts we've seen recently haven't suited us," he admits, "Austria's much more in the RS16's comfort zone. We left the Barcelona test feeling quite positive and, since then, we've added the positive step of the 'B' specification engine, but the circuits we've visited subsequently have really caused our progress to falter and that's something we must address.
"It's partly a function of downforce, and that simply goes back to development time. We're also looking at braking stability, so front locking into a slow corner has an impact on pace. For entry instability, taking out front wing helps, but then the playoff is more mid-corner understeer possibly driving snappiness on exit. Traction's another challenge, [but] these are things we can fine-tune with weight distribution and mechanical balance for example, but ultimately the more downforce you have, the more these type of issues go away.
"[The Red Bull Ring] has some high speed content, so you want a car that also has good high speed balance. This higher speed content should suit us - as we've seen from the previous three
races, we do have a weakness in the low speed corners so it's good to get away from them!"
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