Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul feels Max Verstappen should ‘focus on the car’ reacting to the Dutch driver’s criticisms regarding its engine upgrades which he revealed was part of its plans agreed with Red Bull.

During the build-up to the Russian Grand Prix, Verstappen explained a swap to a new B-spec engine was required because Renault’s C-spec could not run at high altitude, with focus already shifting towards the Mexico and Brazil races.

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Abiteboul has defended the engine strategy call, which he revealed was ‘specifically on the request of Red Bull’, and has hit back at Verstappen’s comments.

“We had a driveability issue in Singapore in FP1, early into the weekend and, to a far less extent, in qualifying,” Abiteboul said. “But I think we have a very demanding user in Max and not very quiet also.

“But I think the team has done a great job in order to provide Max what was needed in order to have a good weekend in Singapore, it’s very clear. As far as the introduction of the previous-spec engine is concerned, again, that was part of the plan.

“The C-spec as we call it, is a good step, I think it is a good step that everyone recognises, that Red Bull has a clear step in power that comes also with a certain number of limitations.

“That was part of the plan to introduce, at a later stage, a B-spec. It’s a bit unusual in terms of pattern – but again it’s a pattern and a plan that was fully agreed, specifically on the request of Red Bull.”

Abiteboul also played down the C-spec engine limitations at high altitude but concedes reliability concerns triggered the power unit changes.

“I believe that it’s fair to say that any engine performs not as good at high altitude,” he said. “I guess the power increase that we have seen would have been equal in a track like Mexico so no, I don’t agree with those comments in general. I think Max would focus on the car.

“But we do have reliability concerns and therefore it was clear that the engine introduced for Max would not have been able to do all the races so it was decided obviously to go to a different spec but again that’s going to the plan that I was mentioning before, agreed with Red Bull engineering department and not driving department.”

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