As Formula 1 teams began to offer the first glimpses of what their 2019 cars will look like this week, the attitude from two in particular stood out.
Haas’s unveiling was always going to prove an optimistic affair; its Rich Energy title partnership leading to a livery launch in the salubrious surroundings of London’s Royal Automobile Club and accompanied by plenty of references to Red Bull as Rich Energy looks to disrupt the establishment.
Yet it was part of the establishment — two constructors looking to emulate past glories — that grabbed the attention through the way they spoke.
First of those to make a statement was Renault. About to enter the fourth season since its return as a constructor, the French manufacturer was in bullish mood. Launch week was the opportunity to show certain media and partners around its Enstone factory, to highlight all of the development work that has taken place over the past three years.
That work has culminated in an infrastructure that Renault believes can take it to race victories and championships in the future. The foundations are now set, and it’s time to use those facilities to develop a front-running car.
Challenging for podiums was the stated aim, along with consolidating its fourth place in the constructors’ championship from last season.
On top of that, from a power unit perspective there was the bold claim that Renault has enjoyed the best winter in the past five years — i.e., since the start of the current engine regulations that left it lagging behind Mercedes, and more recently, Ferrari.
“We also have a very clear understanding of what needs to be done in order to improve the competitiveness of the engine,” managing director Cyril Abiteboul said. “It’s very clear. Three or four years ago it was about understanding what we need to do and where we need to go.
“Now, it’s very clear where we need to go — it’s all about execution. So we know we have a number of technical breakthroughs to secure to make that happen, but it’s not ‘how,’ it’s really ‘when.’”
It is time for Renault to be making such predictions, especially given the investment the team has made in Daniel Ricciardo for the next two seasons. But perhaps Abiteboul should take a look at the only team it now supplies power units to – McLaren – before getting too carried away.
Twelve months ago, McLaren was certain it was going to make a big jump up the grid. Splitting from Honda was broadcast as the cure-all for its lack of results and wretched form, given that Renault was able to supply a race-winning power unit to Red Bull. As we know all too well by now, that didn’t prove to be the case.
On Thursday there was some support in Woking for Renault’s announcements, with Zak Brown confident in the progress that has been made from a power unit point of view.
“We’re obviously up to speed with the comments they’ve made and they’ve shared with us the gains they’ve made,” Brown said. “So that’s encouraging. Renault are saying things differently this year than they did last year. Last year they were very grounded in where they thought their engine was and the deficit to the front. So on the basis of that, we’ve found them to be very honest in their communication of where they think they are, so it’s encouraging they’re as positive as they are.”