The 2017 Formula One season will be critical for Renault.
Of the four engine manufacturers, Renault have had by far the most turbulent ride. Since the disastrous events of pre-season testing in 2014, and the iconic scene of Vettel pushing his own car back to the garage having broken down before even leaving the pit lane, the French marque have never quite been able to recover.
Red Bull were incredibly eager to publicise where they believed their shortfalls resided. Their treatment of their engine supplier was brutal, but unfortunately for Renault, never far from the truth. The harrowing fact was that the engines were gravely behind power and reliability. It is a testament to Red Bull that they have managed five wins since then.
Renault must complete their transition
By restoring their status as a ‘works’ outfit once again, Renault have affirmed their intent to return the top step. After what they called a “transitional period” last year, 2017 will be a defining season for the team.
There have been changes at the top. Frederic Vasseur’s departure over the winter suggested further problems were arising within the team, but it seems they remain confident of solidifying their position in the midfield. That, of course, will not be enough for a team that have won World Championships.
Nico and Jolyon must get the results
At the end of an extremely disappointing season last year, Nico Hulkenberg’s arrival was precisely the boost they needed. Having made very little progress since the start of the year, they will have needed some fresh input. A driver of Hulkenberg’s quality will definitely have motivated the workforce.
Alongside the German, for his second season in Formula One, is Jolyon Palmer. He will need to hit the ground running in 2017, I get the feeling he was lucky to retain his drive after last season. The glimpses of speed that the Brit showed at the end of last year will need to become the norm. Renault are going to need their drivers to drag the absolute maximum from the car.
Underachievement will not be acceptable
McLaren will be the target for Renault. Honda were late to the hybrid party, but have been showing signs of progress, and the sounds coming from Woking are positive. Renault can ill afford to lose out to their other ‘works’ rivals. I’m still not convinced that the French team are going to be anywhere close to Mercedes, while one would expect that Ferrari will continue to progress.
There is an air of mystery surrounding Renault’s prospects for this year. They have stated their intent to solidify themselves in the midfield. I wonder whether that is good enough. As one of only four engine manufacturers with their own team, they should be much nearer the front. Anything less than consistent points for Renault will be inadequate. They cannot spend any longer languishing at the tail end.
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