Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul
Bahrain showed both another positive step in our progress, and reiterated an area where we must focus our attention.
For the first time in the team's short history, we qualified both cars in the top ten. This was thanks to teamwork from everyone at the track and everyone at Enstone and Viry. Nico was able to deliver the fast laps whenever needed and Jolyon staged an impressive recovery from a difficult FP3.
In the Grand Prix we did score our first points of the season with Nico, but this joy was tempered by the acknowledgement that we should have scored more.
Our focus at the factory in Enstone and then at the test in Bahrain which followed the Grand Prix has been seeking how to unlock the pace of the R.S.17 in race conditions.
Nico and Sergey drove in the test and both were able to give positive feedback. Sergey impressed us by getting up to speed very quickly in this new generation car, despite having not driven since last year.
Sergey will drive in FP1 in Sochi alongside Jolyon. Russia is an important market for us and it is good for them to see their local hero out in action.
We're hoping that the work of the test can be applied and all the new parts tested will work as well as they did in evaluation when we take to the track in Sochi. Both cars in the points in Russia would be a fantastic reward and another step forward in our 2017 journey.
Elsewhere, Renault reiterated its long term commitment to Formula 1 by showing the R.S. 2027 at the Shanghai Motor Show on April 19. The reaction to this concept car outlining what Formula 1 could be in ten years' time has been fantastic. We look forward to continuing this conversation.
Finally, last weekend saw the first of our Renault Sport Academy members get their seasons underway with the opening round of the Formula Renault Eurocup. Max Fewtrell, Jarno Opmeer and Sun Yue Yang were all in action with some strong potential seen between them at the start of their rookie years in this highly competitive championship.
After three Grands Prix and one in-season test, Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell looks at the state of play with the R.S.17 heading to the Russian Grand Prix.
What's the outlook heading to Russia?
We head to Sochi with a reasonable degree of optimism. We have shown a good progression so far in 2017, most notably illustrated by qualifying both cars in the top ten for the first time in Bahrain as well as securing our first points finish. There's no doubt we have work still to do, equally it's clear we've taken a tangible step forward.
Where's the current focus of development?
It's pretty clear and we're not under any illusion; we are currently qualifying better than we race and that's a symptom of our current car performance. We have a reasonable understanding of why this is and have a number of developments to address this in the realm of aerodynamics and suspension. We tested new parts – including a new front wing - in Bahrain designed to add more aero-performance to the car and also make it slightly more benign to engender better race pace. It's a positive of testing somewhere where you've just had a Grand Prix that there is a lot of comparable data for evaluation.
Why does the car seem to qualify better than it races?
The R.S.17 is not as well balanced as we'd like over a full stint. Whilst you can get away with this over the course of a qualifying lap - where fresh tyres can mask the balance issue – the performance is less consistent when you take to the longer runs of race stints.
The R.S.17 has a somewhat nervous corner entry, followed by mid-turn understeer, followed by a nervous exit making finding traction a challenge. If we can address these areas, our drivers will have a very effective race car at their disposal. We believe the problems are aero related, so we're primarily looking for the solution there. Once we have the entry-phase of the corner sorted, the rest should follow more easily.
The big positive is that the car has the basic pace to be able to be qualified well. Our current issue is extracting that pace in a race scenario. If you have the pace the key is maintaining it; it's easier to translate qualifying pace to race pace than to find basic performance.
What's wanted in Russia?
Our target for Sochi is another step forward from our performance in Bahrain. We'd be happy with a similar qualifying position allied to improved race pace.
From Russia with Love
Nico Hülkenberg heads to Sochi with a sense of satisfaction after a productive Bahrain test as well as wearing a happy face for a track he rather likes.
What's the mood headed to Sochi?
I have quite a bit of optimism! I think we made good progress to enable us to improve our race pace for Sochi when we were testing in Bahrain and we have some new bits for the car to facilitate this too. Of course, the Sochi Autodrom is a completely different circuit, so we can't accurately predict our relative performance until we get there, but I'm feeling positive.
What do you think of the event?
I like travelling to Russia, it's a cool place and I like the track and infrastructure there. Of course, my main focus is on the track itself and it's a good one to drive, so I go there with a happy face. J. I think we've made good progress with the car with some positive updates, which should also make me happy.
What are your thoughts of the track when you're behind the wheel?
It's one of the longer laps of the season and this is compounded by there being a lot of corners. This makes it a big challenge for any driver as you need to get every turn in each sector together perfectly, especially in qualifying. It's a very quick and flowing track, which is why I like it so much. There are a number of tricky bits too, especially braking into the corner at the end of the back straight. The final sector is a bit more technical and slow in its nature, but overall it's a fun track.
What was on your wish list for improvement at the Bahrain test?
Of course, I'm a race driver so I want improvement in every area! The car is basically good, it's just a number details where we need to improve. The positive is we know what these areas are and what we need to do to improve them. We want more downforce and to improve the car aerodynamically and we want to use the tyres better in the race.
What's you track record like in Russia?
I haven't had the greatest amount of luck in Sochi with two retirements and a 12th placed finish, so it would be great to score my first points there in 2017!
Three races in, how are you enjoying racing the latest generation F1 car wheel to wheel?
It's fun, but you get used to new things so quickly! We're on top of the new level of downforce from a driving point of view; it's quickly the status quo. It's a different experience racing wheel to wheel, but I want to be doing this more through fighting my way up the order!
Planning a Revolution
Sochi Autodrom has been a positive location for Jolyon Palmer, it being the track where he secured his 2014 GP2 Series championship title, through a race win. After his first top ten qualifying performance in Bahrain, Jolyon's aiming for his first top ten race finish of 2017.
What are your thoughts on Sochi?
For me the best thing about Russia is that I won the first ever GP2 Series race there and that race won me the championship, so I have very good memories of the Sochi Autodrom! I got a great start so led from the first lap but was under a lot of pressure all the way. It's great to win any race, but to win a race where you've had pressure at every turn, that's a real achievement.
What's the challenge of Sochi in a Formula 1 car?
It's a smooth and still pretty new track with plenty to think about in its layout. We've seen that it can start with pretty low grip levels at the beginning of the weekend, but it will be interesting to see how the extra downforce of 2017 copes with that. Last year we struggled to the car where we wanted in qualifying but we went better in the race.
How do you feel progress has been so far this season?
There's definitely been progress, but there's certainly more to come. Getting into the top ten in qualifying for the first time in Bahrain was particularly satisfying. I'd struggled a lot in the FP3 session, so myself and my engineer, Chris Richards, sat down and we changed the set-up of the car so it worked far better. My race in Bahrain was frustrating as we weren't able to unlock the pace from the car – which was something Nico suffered from too. The real positive is that the team is taking a step forward at every race so we're hopeful that Sochi continues in this vein.
After a productive test in Bahrain, Renault Sport Formula One Team Third and Reserve Driver Sergey Sirotkin will be jumping into Nico Hülkenberg's R.S.17 for FP1 in Sochi. He can't wait…
It's fair to say you're looking forward to FP1?
Obviously I'm very much looking forward to it! I've learn so far this year that it's not very easy to be at a race track but not in the car. Watching other drivers in action and competing is pretty frustrating as I want to be out there. I am learning a lot with the team and it is a positive and enjoyable process, just not as positive and enjoyable as racing itself.
How was the Bahrain test?
The Bahrain test was a good first time in the R.S.17. The cars are really quick this year but I feel back in rhythm despite having not been in a race car for six months. It was a full programme and I enjoyed every second of being in the car, even if the programme was not the most exciting for the driver. Ultimately, I'm here to do what the team tell me to do, so that's my approach to FP1; if I have to do aero runs, that's what I do. If I have to drive a qualifying simulation on Ultrasoft tyres, then that's what I'll do too!
What do you think to the track?
I drove last year in Sochi so I'm familiar with what to expect. It's a modern-style F1 track with some interesting aspects to it. There have been some interesting Grands Prix there. The most challenging sector is the final one, off the back straight, as there are some tricky braking areas through corner after corner, then it's really crucial to keep the rear of the car under control through this sequence.
Is it good to be in the car at home?
I'm proud of being a Russian driver so to be in front of thousands of Russian fans is always going to be a highlight. That said, I would settle with being in the car anywhere! Of course, there will be a lot of attention in the press and media, and many people I know will be there - which is always nice - however my focus is fully on track. I'm there to do the best job possible and focus on the entire race weekend not just FP1 when I'm in the car.
Renault Sport Racing Roundup
Renault Sport Academy go Racing
Three of the Renault Sport Academy members were out in action this past weekend (April 21-23) at the opening round of the highly-competitive Formula Renault Eurocup.
Jarno Opmeer (MP Motorsport), Max Fewtrell (Tech 1 Racing) and Sun Yue Yang (JD Motorsport) all raced at the iconic Autodromo di Monza in what is for Jarno and Max of their rookie season in the category and for Sun his rookie single seater season.
With two races over the weekend, it was an eventful season-opener. Against tough and experienced competition, Max was the RSA top qualifier the split qualifying for the race, with his qualifying session P4 equating to P8 on the grid for Race 1. He was in P6 at the race's red flag finish, with this translated to P8 after the one lap countback.
Jarno was eighth fastest in his qualifying session, and this meant P16 on the Race 1 grid. Contact from behind dropped him down to 27th then for the following 9 laps till the race's red-flag finish, Jarno moved back to P18 – overtaking on average one car per lap. Sun was 14th in his qualifying session, P28 on the grid, and had moved up to 23rd when he made contact with another car ending his race.
For Race 2, Jarno was the top RSA qualifier with P5 in his group meaning P9 on the grid, ahead of Max (P8 in session, P15 on grid) and Sun (P14 in session, P27 on grid). Jarno's good work was all undone, with places lost off the line, then at the safety car restart before a spin meant he crossed the line in 21st. Max meanwhile was able fightback up to a top ten finish, taking his second eighth of the weekend. Sun was able to finish P16.
Mia Sharizman -
Monza was a tough venue for Max, Jarno and Sun to make their Formula Renault Eurocup debuts as it's a venue which really rewards experience as the art of slipstreaming is used here more than seen in venues. Although the weekend was challenging, we've seen some strong potential. The next round at Silverstone should offer good scope for strong results as all our drivers have tested previously.
Rowland Third in F2 Standings
No sooner was he announced as Renault Sport Formula One Team Development Driver than Oliver Rowland was out in action in the newly-named FIA Formula 2 Championship (previously known as the GP2 Series).
A man on a mission, Oliver was fastest in practice, however unhappiness with his brakes saw him qualify eighth.
'In practice things felt good and I was happy heading into qualifying,' said Oliver. 'The track conditions were very different and I had a couple of issues carried over from practice, which meant we were eighth. It wasn't a disaster, but I knew we could have been higher.'
Oliver fought through the field to fifth in Saturday's Feature Race, putting him fourth on the grid for the sprint. The 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 champion battled hard throughout the 23-lap race to come home third, giving his team, DAMS, their first podium of the F2 era.
This podium and the fifth-placed-finish left Rowland in third position in the Drivers' Championship.
'In the first race I climbed to fourth, but the tyres went off slightly towards the end and finished fifth,' said Oliver. 'I didn't have the best of starts on Sunday, but fought back really well and ended up on the podium, which is a great result and I'm happy looking ahead to Barcelona.'
Sergey to visit Moscow factory
Prior to his FP1 outing in Sochi, Sergey Sirotkin will visit Renault's Volgogradskiy factory on Tuesday. The facility, located in the south east of Moscow, houses over 3000 employees, producing over 160,000 vehicles, made up of the Logan, Sandero, Duster, Fluence, Kaptur and Mégane models.
Aided by 40 years of experience in Formula 1, Renault has outlined a vision of what racing's premier series might look like in 2027 with the R.S. 2027.
Unveiled at the Shanghai Motor Show on April 19, the R.S. 2027 includes a number of key features:
•A transparent cockpit and a transparent helmet that allow the drivers to be seen in the heat of the action to enable a more human-centric championship with drivers at the heart of the sport.
•Active LED lighting incorporated into the wheels and moving aerodynamic parts such as the car's active wings to enable a more spectacular show.
•An autonomous mode that can be activated in the case of an accident, along with an ultra-resistant polycarbonate cockpit canopy to protect against impact to enable safer racing.
•Ultra-high-performance from Groupe Renault's expertise in the realms of four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and very high-energy density batteries.
•An even more environmentally-respectful form of Formula 1, with the fuel tank capacity halved in the space of 10 years, plus a full-electric mode for use in the pit lane.
Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault Sport Racing:
'One role of Renault Sport Racing is to anticipate the future of Formula 1 so that it draws a maximum number of fans in an environment consistent with Groupe Renault's objectives. We look forward to generating inspired conversations with the racing community, fans and enthusiasts through this concept that highlights our ideas and desires.'
Sochi Autodrom has some very street-course aspects like the close walls and the numerous 90° turns, but its long straight, super-smooth surface and that long turn three mark it out as something different. Turn three puts a lot of energy through the tyres but the rest of the layout isn't too demanding on the rubber. Don't expect too many pit stops, but the close walls can mean safety car appearances.
T01: Start/finish straight and approach to T2 is the fastest point on the circuit, with speeds over 320kph possible with DRS after 15secs full throttle.
T02: Reasonable braking for T2 which could get crowded on first lap. Decent run off here means good overtaking opportunities.
T03: Long T3 will punish an understeering car and make demands on front right tyre.
T08: A rapid sequence of significant braking demands and traction events through this section. Circuit has reasonable braking demands, especially T4-T10 then T13-T18.
T10: Exit from T10 to entry to T13 is second significant wide open throttle area of circuit with 900m in 12secs.
T13: Correct line into T13 with heavy braking after flat out T11-T12 sequence will be a challenge.
T14: Slowest corner, cars slowing to almost 80kph.
T17: Very tight entry to pit lane to catch the unwary.
Power Unit notes
Sochi may resemble a street track in look but, with two long straights and one high speed turn top speed (without DRS) will be around 300kph (320+kph with DRS), while the average speed is over 200kph.
Approximately 60% of the lap is spent at wide open throttle, well above the 'traditional' street average.
The lap opens with a short burst of wide open throttle. The pit straight blends into Turn 2, giving a total full throttle time of 15 seconds. There is only one other sustained period of wide open throttle around the lap, the curve from Turn 10 to 13 at the back of the track. This is around 950m long and 13secs duration.
With fuel consumption high, the focus is to recover as much energy as possible under braking. Of the 18 corners, nine are large stops so the MGU-K should be able to recover enough energy to balance out the ICE's fuel consumption.
Sector two is very point and squirt, with right-angled turns that give the MGU-K plenty of chance to recover energy. Turns 2 and 4 are the hardest stops and the car speed drops to 120kph, with each braking event around 2.0 seconds.
The radial Turn 3 that rounds the Olympic arena is taken at full throttle. This sustained throttle use will give the MGU-H a steady stream of exhaust from which it can recover the lost heat energy.
Pirelli brings the same selection of tyres as seen in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix to Russia where there will be the second appearance of the Ultrasoft compound this year.
The Russian Standard Premium of Pirelli's tyre range, the Soft compound, like Russian Standard Premium vodka, is known for its popularity at numerous locations and its neutral character.
The Beloe Zoloto of the tyre allocation, the Supersoft is unique and easily recognisable, capable of both high performance and reasonable durability. Beloe Zoloto vodka has a vivid character thanks to the inclusion of ginseng root essence in its makeup.
The Beluga of the range, an extremely soft tyre which echoes the characteristics of Beluga vodka, which 'clings to your throat like oil'. The Ultrasoft clings to the road with tenacity, but can soon tire of its exertions.
1 The number of times Russia blasted the Olympic torch into space.
2 The Sochi tennis school became the launching pad for the careers of many Russian tennis stars, including Maria Sharapova and Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
200 The climate in Sochi is subtropical and the city usually has 200 sunny days a year.
5,642 The height in metres of Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in the Caucasus, the mountains
1,100,000 More than 1.1 million tickets were sold for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.