Renault Sport F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul says the reliability shown by the French manufacturer at the Australian Grand Prix should not be overlooked.
Lewis Hamilton’s stunning pole position on the Saturday ensured there was plenty of talk about qualifying modes in Melbourne, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner stating Renault needs to unlock more performance for his team. While still appearing to lack outright power compared to the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari, Renault had a number of reliability issues in 2017 but all of the teams it supplies finished in the points with both cars in Australia, something Abiteboul believes deserves praise.
“In Australia, there were a number of strong points – reliability, performance and the final result,” Abiteboul said. “We did not have any reliability issues in Renault Sport Formula One Team, nor our two partner teams.
“The performance of the team was more or less where we expected and hoped for the first race. Ultimately the result was good; the first time that we have had both cars in the top 10 since our return, and the first time in the history of Renault that six Renault-powered cars have finished in the points. This is a result we can be pleased with.
“As a first result of the year it is encouraging, but we have to be conscious of circumstances as the gaps between the top 10, and even beyond, are tiny. It did however confirm that we are going in the right direction and we need to build on this going forward.”
While Nico Hulkenberg was pleased with the progress from Renault, he says the gap to the top three teams needs to be addressed.
“It was a straightforward race and successful for us,” Hulkenberg said. “It was a strong weekend and I was pleased by our good race pace. I felt good out there and it’s a solid result. Overtaking was very difficult as the cars are aero sensitive and the speeds are so high. Seventh was probably a fair result for us; we would have been higher barring the unfortunately timed Virtual Safety Car.
“We have to keep working and make sure we beat the teams around us. We’ve sent out a positive message from Enstone and Viry, but we need to reduce the gap to the front and that’s the challenge.”