Renault says one of the big things it has lacked in its push to make the most out of its £15 million investment in the Formula 1 team was a ‘force’ to help drive its technical development better.
The French car manufacturer faced some difficult times in 2019 in the wake of an upgrade it brought to its home race in Paul Ricard not delivering the step forward it had hoped for.
That prompted a major internal review of the organisation, with the team coming to the conclusion that it needed some restructuring. As well as shuffling staff around, it has hired former McLaren engineer Pat Fry for a senior role.
Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said that one of the key lessons coming out of last year was the need for stronger direction on the technical front.
“It looks like we were missing something in the technical leadership of the team, in the ability to pull all the resources that we put together,” he told Motorsport.com.
“We talk a lot about figures, and headline numbers like 750 people in Enstone now. It’s huge, and there has been lots of investments: £15 million of investment.
“But you know, all of that needs to be driven by a force. And I felt that, and we felt that, we were a bit weak in technical leadership. Therefore, that led to the recruitment of Pat.”
Abiteboul said there were multiple factors at play to explain why Renault had a far from smooth 2019 campaign, which included it not making the most of the speed of its car in the early phase of the campaign.
“I think in the first part of this season we had a decent car,” he said. “But it was not very visible, because we did not manage to get the results or score the points that we could have at the time, given the theoretical competitiveness of our car against our competitors.
“There were different types of reasons for that: reliability, the engine, operation at the track, a bit of pitstop, and a bit of strategy.
“Plus a bit of drivers, also particularly Daniel [Ricciardo] getting used to the car. That unfortunately cost us some points at the time where we were in decent shape.”
Abiteboul said that the French GP upgrade disappointment highlighted a concept problem with its car that could not be cured during the season – and that opened the door for McLaren to overhaul it.
“When we were expecting to bring the car to the next level, it didn’t really work,” he said. “So we discovered that there was a sort of limit for the development of the car given the choices that were made in terms of overall philosophy.
“That was the story of the second part of the season. It was more difficult, and being out-developed by teams around us. Plus McLaren, to start with, benefiting from progress we had made on the engine, and the progress that we kept on coming in the course of the season.”
Abiteboul said that Renault has learned that it needs to ensure it maximises opportunities at the start of the campaign, as well as focus on longer term ambitions.
“What really matters at the start of the season, it’s not necessarily the theoretical performance of the car, it’s to be able to get out of the races what you can get,” he said.
“So not the best outright pace, but having a robust package that can be reliable, along with a team that can be ready with a line up of drivers that can be ready to extract what the car has to offer.”
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