By Ryan Werner | Paddock magazine caught up with Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport F1’s Managing Director and asked him a few relevant questions.
You will be providing engines to McLaren next season; after this, will you consider them your main competitor on the track?
All teams are competitors so it’s difficult to say. They will be expected to be a tough competitor but we expect our team to also perform very well.
Williams with their Mercedes engine are also competitors or Force India with their stability. We hope to make it a step closer to other teams. So frankly, it’s difficult to know who would be our biggest competitor in 2018.
Let’s see, a lot of things are going to happen over the winter.
How do you think the signing of Carlos Sainz will be of benefit to the team?
We saw at Austin that he has a leading force, he’s got a fantastic balance between being young, coming from other teams, and bringing something fresh and exciting to the team. So in that experience, he’ll make a contribution with a very true understanding of the car.
If we’re going to take a chance on the Constructors Championship and develop the team, it’s very crucial to have two drivers (Sainz and Hulkenberg) who can complement each other, which is what we feel we’re going to have with these two guys.
Do you think having him (Sainz) on the team will boost the manufacturer’s car sales in Spain?
There is always an impact in the countries and we hope indeed that he’s going to increase the exposure of the team and definitely the brand in a number of markets that are related to Carlos, mainly Spain but also Latin America.
To say that he’s going to directly sell is a bit difficult because there are a number of things that need to be right, like product availability, pricing, marketing and activation.
Renault has a big share of the Mexican market, with 30 thousand cars sold in 2016, do you activate around the Mexico GP to promote car sales?
Yes, there is a lot going on. We had a marketing event on Thursday with a lot of local media to support. It’s one thing to be in Formula 1, but we also need to activate, so we need to spend in advertising, create events and talk about your involvement in Formula 1.
Carlos Sainz is a Spanish-speaking driver, are you thinking of taking advantage of that and leverage it in countries like Mexico?
Absolutely, he was involved in a number of things that we did prior to the weekend and it’s not just him, we have a number of sponsors that have an interest on this part of the world, and having a driver that can speak the language is very helpful.
Renault’s “Aerocat” (sidepod turning vane with the shape of a cat) is a Formula 1 celebrity, you should make it the official team mascot!
He’s already considered a mascot, I don’t think we need to do any more than that. [smiles]
Unfortunately, you haven’t been able to secure many points this season, will you have significant changes for the next one?
It’s all about continuing to do all the things that we started to do already, we’re building the team and it’s only our second season. Last year, it wasn’t event considered our first season, it was training to get everything ready as we made a decision in December to return to Formula 1, so we had only one or two months to get everything ready, like the engine, changing the architecture of the car and so on and so forth.
This year is really, truly our first season and we’re pretty much in line with the plan, with big disappointments and frustration as we continue to look for reliability for the season, therefore that will be our focus for 2018.
Are you already trying to move on from the current season? Or are you searching for a strong finish with the hiring of Carlos?
It’s a combination of both, we’ve managed to do a combination of the two, which is to continue working on the season, as we must improve our Constructors Championship position. We’re currently in seventh but very close to the sixth position and a bit further away from fifth, so that’s why we had to push. We’re still ordering new parts as we’re in race eighteen, which is very late in the season, but as we do that, we’re not compromising anything for next year, searching for reliability. That’s our plan, we know we have the capacity to follow multiple projects at the same time because of the size of the team, but obviously we cannot afford to jeopardize 2018.