Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director of Renault Sport, says that the French Grand Prix is a “very important race” for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team in their quest to return to the front of Formula 1.
Renault sit fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, sixteen points ahead of the McLaren F1 Team. However, their soon to be former power unit customers Aston Martin Red Bull Racing hold a seemingly insurmountable lead over them in terms of a top three finish.
Abiteboul acknowledged that the first French F1 race for ten years will “carry and added level of emotion” for the team, recalling some of the brightest moments in the marque’s racing history, including their first win – claimed by René Arnoux at Circuit Dijon-Prenois 39 years ago.
“The return of the French Grand Prix is going to carry an added level of emotion for all at Renault,” Abiteboul said. “Everyone who works for the marque is proud of our heritage at this event.
“Renault’s first win in the sport came in 1979 in Dijon, courtesy of Jean-Pierre Jabouille’s victory with René Arnoux also on the podium that day after one of the all-time great racing duels with Gilles Villeneuve.
“We have scored a further nine victories on our home soil with some of the sport’s best drivers– Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso, Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher.”
Whilst the 40-year-old ruled out a repeat victory at the Circuit Paul Ricard this weekend, he noted that there is an added weight of expectation provided by what will undoubtedly be a partizan fanbase. Earlier this week, Abiteboul told ESPN that he is starting to feel pressure in terms of the team’s performance nearly three years in to their reformation as a works team – but affirmed that the home advantage can work in their favour too.
“We are at an early stage of our journey so a win is probably not on the cards,” he added. “As a French team, we know we have extra pressure to perform well at our home race.
“But the race on home soil also gives us extra motivation to pull together and work well. We head to Circuit Paul Ricard on the back of a positive result in Montréal, where we demonstrated, once more, our excellent team spirit. We recovered from a difficult start to the weekend to take ten points and a healthy step forward in the Constructors’ Championship.”
Renault walked away from the Canadian Grand Prix a fortnight ago with a double points finish to their name – Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. proving to be the best of the rest, finishing seventh and eighth respectively. Abiteboul emphasised the need to continue the good form to aid Renault in their development.
“We also continue our established development plan on the chassis side, so it will be about maintaining this momentum for this very important race in the context of the team’s reconstruction,” he said.
“We need to match the teamwork we saw in Canada, and exemplify this level of passion and pride in France. We can’t wait.”