The gap between fourth and fifth in the Constructors’ Championship closed to just six points after the result of the Belgian Grand Prix, with the Renault Sport Formula One Team failing to score anything for the second time in five races, while the Haas F1 Team scored with both drivers.
Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul has seen the gap between the two teams close considerably in recent races and seeing Nico Hülkenberg crash out at the first turn in dramatic fashion at Spa-Francorchamps, and then Carlos Sainz Jr. finish outside the points in eleventh meant that Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finishing seventh and eighth for Haas closed the gap by a further ten points.
Abiteboul feels Renault has been lucky this season to be ahead of Haas, but whilst there is still an advantage for the Enstone-based team, there is a desire to keep fighting for that fourth position, starting this weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the Italian Grand Prix.
“Frankly we were assuming that this gap would disappear like an ice cube in the sun,” said Abiteboul to Motorsport.com.
“We knew since day one that Haas is very competitive, and actually it’s quite the opposite, we are lucky that we are still ahead. It gives us the opportunity to keep on defending until Abu Dhabi.
“We know that we have another challenging track in Monza, but let’s see. We have quite a lot to come in terms of development on the chassis, but I expect the predominant factor is going to be engine competitiveness.”
Abiteboul admitted it was always planned to give Hülkenberg an engine change in Belgium, but after Sainz’s struggles in Qualifying, it was decided to bring forward his planned change by a week, and it is now hoped that neither driver will need any further new engine components before the end of the season.
“We decided to focus all the grid penalties that we needed, and hopefully there won’t be any more to come, and there will be more straightforward races in the next eight rounds,” said Abiteboul.
“It was scheduled [for Spa] for Nico, it was scheduled for Monza for Carlos, but because of what happened in qualifying, which is still not explained, we decided to do that here, and now so it’s out of the way.”