Cyril Abiteboul, the Team Principal of the Renault F1 Team, says the 2019 Formula 1 season has been his most difficult campaign thanks to the pressure of expectation, with the Enstone-based outfit not being able to push on from its fourth placed standing from the 2018 season.
2019 was meant to be the season where Renault make the jump from the midfield to join the front-running teams in the fight for wins and podiums, but with just four races of the season remaining, they sit fifth in the Constructors’ Championship without a top three finish all year long.
Abiteboul says that while it is clear they have underperformed this season people have expected too much from Renault this season. However, there are plans and resources in place to move the team forward, especially with their recruitment drive that has included the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo as driver and Marcin Budkowski as executive director.
“It is a tough season, and it is by far the most difficult season that I have personally lived because of the level of expectation,” admitted Abiteboul to Motorsport.com. “But I don’t think we announced that, and I don’t think we set it ourselves directly.
“We always said our target was P4, and clearly we are not there, we are P5. But I think through our acts, and in particular Daniel, through our investment, through some of the recruitment, many people started to think that there were higher expectations. And that was not really the case.
“Still we have under delivered, but people have overestimated what were the actual expectations and actual target, which meant that the gap between the two is big.”
Abiteboul says the R.S.19 has been a sensitive car to deal with this season, and it means it has been hard to find the consistency that other teams have found, meaning it has often been the case that they can be at the front of the midfield one weekend and towards the back of it the next.
“We have had a car this season that is very sensitive and it works extremely well in some conditions and not so well in other conditions,” said Abiteboul. “So with a midfield that is so tight, it means we can move from P4 and P5 in Monza to almost P15 in Japan.
“I understand people from the outside may think we are losing the plot, but we know that certain conditions meant we are massively struggling, and there is very little we can do.”
It has been a long time since Renault introduced a significant update to the R.S.19, but what they are doing is understanding what does and does not work so to allow for progress to be made in 2020.
“Frankly, the last significant upgrade that we had to the car was way, way before the summer shutdown,” said Abiteboul. “I will not even tell you when it was!
“But we have been struggling: struggling with aero development, and it’s not just aero to be honest, it is the whole system. We have been struggling with this new set of regulations.
“We sort of know what to do, but until you do it you will never know for sure. Most of that cannot be done on this year’s car, it will have to be done for next year. Anything we can learn is useful, but there is so much that is to go into next year.”