Cyril Abiteboul heralded the result of last Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after Carlos Sainz Jr. claimed the best result for the Renault Sport Formula One Team since they returned as a manufacturer entry into Formula 1 in 2016.
The team principal of the Enstone-based team said they were unsure to just how competitive they would be around the Baku Street Circuit, but Abiteboul watched Sainz run as high as fourth early on before ultimately finishing fifth, just behind Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Abiteboul admits that circumstances played into their hands with the result, particularly as the Spaniard dropped down the order following his first pit stop, but despite this, the result was further proof of the progress being made by Renault in 2018.
“We were not sure what to expect for this race, but fifth for Carlos is a great result, our best since returning to the sport two years ago,” said Abiteboul. “We have to admit it came in exceptional circumstances, but it is very positive.
“Carlos drove a very mature race, managing his tyres well, and fighting with multiple cars throughout the race. It is very encouraging to look at how the grid has changed since last year; the gap to Red Bull and from the Renault engine to the rest of the field is obvious evidence of all the progress we have made and continue to make every weekend. “
Unfortunately, Nico Hülkenberg’s race was over early after hitting the wall, but Abiteboul says the German will be forgiven, providing like in 2017 it is his only mistake of the season. The German had shown good pace to climb from fourteenth on the grid to run fifth, but ended his race with a broken suspension after hitting the wall at turn four on the tenth lap.
“Nico had some misfortune, but it was his only mistake last year and if it has to be his only mistake again this year, he will be more than forgiven,” said Abiteboul. “Overall a very good weekend; as a team we scored another handful of points and more than McLaren, so the deficit is now very close as we head towards Europe.”