Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul says the rise of the ‘B-team’ model in Formula 1 has become a “problem” for the French manufacturer. 

Abiteboul highlighted his concerns over recent ‘B-team’ arrangements in F1 and questioned the early performance shown by Toro Rosso over the winter, despite losing its technical chief James Key to McLaren. 

Daniil Kvyat ended up seventh-quickest for the Red Bull sister squad in opening practice for the Australian Grand Prix, outpacing the fastest Renault of Nico Hulkenberg by two tenths. 

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“Just look at Toro Rosso, who in my opinion, are likely to be the team to beat as far as we are concerned given where we are,” Abiteboul told Sky Sports.

“Toro Rosso had no technical director for most of last season. It’s very clear what went on. So we don’t even need a technical director to produce what is a very competitive car. For us that’s a problem.” 

Abiteboul said Renault will have to consider a similar strategy from 2021 if a new set of regulations do not enforce tighter restraints over the concept of ‘B-teams’, while he also fears failure to impose such restrictions will deter new manufacturers from entering the sport. 

“For more there was a before and after Haas that has created a precedent,” he added. “I am not challenging [it] but I’m just saying how do teams like us, like McLaren and Williams move forward? 

“But also how do a manufacturer who is not currently in F1 but wants to join F1, how can they seriously contemplate reaching F1 if it’s not possible to win without a B-team?

“So that’s a strategy to consider, it is something to discuss for 2021. For ’19 and ’20 that’s gone, we don’t have that type of set-up. But for 2021 I hope everyone realises how serious a question it is.”

Renault endured a scrappy FP1 in Melbourne as Hulkenberg’s running was truncated by an electrical issue, while new signing Daniel Ricciardo finished a lowly 17th in the order. 

“We had a very simple issue that required us to take the floor off [Hulkenberg’s car] and re-programme the ECU,” Abiteboul explained. 

“So that took away a lot of time and then with the run plan we had another item to test, which we tried to switch to the other car. 

“Apart from that, it’s still a bit early days. We see that it is super tight in that midfield, as expected, but much more to come."

Asked if it was a representation of the team’s true pace, Abiteboul replied: “No absolutely not. We were running extremely safe and a lot of fuel also.”

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