Following their impressive start to the season, Cyril Abiteboul has challenged both Nico Hϋlkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. to stay at the top of their game as they are now part of the ‘big boy league’ of Formula 1.
Hulkenberg finished seventh and Sainz tenth in the season opening Australian Grand Prix, giving the Enstone-based Renault Sport Formula One Team seven points towards the Constructors’ Championship, with both drivers withstanding pressure from the likes of Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso at stages of the race at Albert Park.
“It’s good to see that we have drivers now under pressure from Bottas and Alonso, and they are handling it,” said Abiteboul to Autosport. “They have the hardware to handle it, although obviously it was a track where it’s difficult to overtake.
“Carlos was suffering a little bit due to a problem with the drinking system, but I don’t think it would have changed anything anyway. They need to stay at the top of their games, because now they are part of the big boy league.”
The Managing Director of Renault said the result in Australia gives them confidence to take forward, and the great reliability of the engine – all six Renault-powered cars finished and inside the points – enables the team to focus on improving the performance of the car and confirm themselves as the fourth best outfit on the grid.
“It’s a decent start, and a start that gives us confidence and focus,” added Abiteboul. “Not having had any reliability issues will also allow us to focus on what we have to do on the performance side, to hopefully clear Haas, and also to continue fighting with McLaren, because that’s going to be an interesting fight during the season.
“It’s in line with the target for the season start, it’s in line with our expectations, it’s in line with our feeling after the tests, but nothing more.”
A lot of emphasis will be on the team to get everything right now that the car is a competitive entity in 2018, but all-in-all, they left Australia with confidence of a good season.
“It’s a sort of demonstration that as we are progressing in the field everything becomes more important, pitstop execution, strategy execution, reliability is a must – and performance,” said Abiteboul. “There won’t be any back-off possible, that’s very clear, we will have to push on in all aspects.
“We know we have in the pipeline what’s needed both on the chassis side and the engine side. So we are coming out of that first race pretty confident about the season to come.”