Daniel Ricciardo’s victory in the Chinese Grand Prix was confirmation of Renault’s belief that it had a power unit capable of beating Mercedes and Ferrari in a straight fight this season.
Red Bull has picked up no more than three victories in a year since the V6 turbo power units were introduced, with Mercedes dominating since 2014 and Ferrari finally challenging it on outright pace last year. There were signs of the power gap closing toward the end of 2017, and Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul says he knew the power unit had race-winning potential from preseason testing this winter.
“It’s good because personally I really see that as confirmation of something I could feel since the Barcelona tests frankly,” Abiteboul told RACER. “I could feel that the engine was a race-winning engine in normal conditions but it’s good to get that confirmation. And it’s confirmation also on a track where we have a very long straight which is quite power-sensitive and we’re in the mix.
“So it’s great, but it doesn’t remove the fact that we need to continue to work on the qualifying performance and competitiveness. We brought a little bit to China and actually Bahrain in terms of qualifying performance. It’s a little bit, but it’s not enough to cause a problem really to Ferrari and Mercedes.”
And Abiteboul admits there is still plenty of work for Renault to do before the next race in Azerbaijan, having suffered an unexpected turbo failure on Ricciardo’s car during final practice in Shanghai.
“Also there is the problem of reliability that we had on Saturday. Frankly that was a bit of… a shock is maybe too strong a word but that is certainly something we were not expecting. Last year we knew the problems, we knew the weaknesses, but we are not supposed to have those types of things [this year].
“So we are going to have a deep look to understand if it’s an isolated problem of quality of parts – because we have a number of suppliers – and also see if there is any connection between the battery problem we had last week and the turbo problem that we had this week which happened to be on the same car.
“We need to also see if there is any similarity with the problem we experienced on the McLaren which had the turbo failure during the winter test, but that was due to a lubrification problem on the McLaren chassis. So we need to connect all of that to see if we can very quickly find a conclusion because that’s really the priority I want to give to the team.”