Renault Sport Formula One Team‘s strong pre-season testing reliability gives them “a chance” of scoring points in this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell says.
Renault completed the eight days of testing with no on-track breakdowns, finishing with the fourth fastest time of the test. This puts them in a good place for the season – even if competitors’ performance isn’t clear at this stage.
“We had a solid winter test campaign with reliability so that’s good cause for optimism.
“In terms of performance, it’s difficult to say where we are. The top three teams are out in front again, but behind you have ourselves, Force India, Toro Rosso, Haas and McLaren in the mix. There’s not an awful lot to separate us, so it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions before the first Grand Prix.
“I think we’ve done a good job of developing the car and I think we’ll be in there with a chance of a haul of points.“
The Australian Grand Prix takes place in Melbourne, and is the furthest track from Renault’s Enstone base. This makes the logistics of Formula 1’s season opener even trickier than for regular races, says Bell, as not only will teams be rusty but shipping needs to be considered as well.
“We’ll all be a bit rusty in terms of going racing and we have to ensure all components are built and shipped there in time.
“All of those things add together to make it a challenging race. Australia is certainly, from that perspective, more difficult than it is from any other aspect.”
Speaking on the track, Bell commented on the demanding nature of the track, and said that the brakes are at the highest risk.
“Albert Park has a load of low speed corners, a reasonable number of straights and it puts high demands on the braking system. Normally, it’s a moderate temperature at that time of year in Melbourne so it’s not overly demanding on the thermal side of the power unit.“
This isn’t an unfounded worry either, as brakes were an issue for the team last year. Former Renault driver Jolyon Palmer was forced to retire just fifteen laps into the 2017 Australian Grand Prix with brake issues.
“Overtaking opportunities aren’t great, it’s more of a street circuit than anything else, so it’ll put emphasis on having good braking, decent low speed performance and good traction. We want to ensure things get to the end of the race without issues.”
In an effort to increase overtaking, the FIA have for the first time increased the number of DRS zones to three, adding an additional zone after the high-speed chicane at turns eleven and twelve to hopefully increase overtaking.