FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DU CANADA 2017 PREVIEW
Renault Sport Formula One Team previews the seventh race weekend of the 2017 Formula 1 season, the Canadian Grand Prix.
Drivers Jolyon Palmer and Nico Hülkenberg share their thoughts on the challenges of the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, while our management and technical staff give the latest on the team and on the R.S.17-R.E.17 package.
Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul
Montréal promises to be an exciting one for everybody involved. It is the 50th anniversary of Formula 1 in Canada and the 375th anniversary of Montréal as a city. It all adds up to be a special weekend, and we are very excited to get out there and getting on the circuit.
Monaco was a very testing weekend for the team. We experienced reliability issues on mechanical components that were on the last race of their cycle. These are challenges that all teams can experience, it is part and parcel of life in modern-day Formula 1. Monaco highlighted the areas we need to improve and further confirmed elements we knew about. And with the new components, we are now ready to attack the next race with the same perseverance and attitude.
Canada is all about bouncing back and making a fresh start. We now have a more robust engine and gearbox and we can fully focus on maximising performance. The team in Enstone are heading to the race with an aerodynamic package adapted to the Montréal circuit. However due to the challenges of the track, we certainly don’t expect an easy race.
The effort going in across both bases in England and Viry is driving us forward and it is vital that we maintain this hard work, as we set our sights on being at least sixth place in the Constructors’ standings before the summer break. That should enable us to defend our position and reset our targets towards finishing the second-half of the season in fifth.
It is a busy time for Renault Sport Racing with Formula 1, Formula E and Formula Renault Eurocup in full swing.
In the FIA Formula 2 Championship, Renault Sport Formula One Team Development Driver Oliver Rowland secured his first-ever win in the series in Monaco. As a team, we are delighted for Oliver for his hard-work behind the scenes and we hope he continues his positive run of form.
It’s a return home for Renault Sport Formula One Team Test Driver Nicholas Latifi, who joins us in Montréal. As well as working with this team this weekend, he will be working as a Brand Ambassador for our Official Partner, Infiniti.
As a brand, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Renault’s Formula 1 entry in Monaco so we are looking forward to being part of Canada’s 50th Formula 1 anniversary and hope we can deliver a celebration-worthy performance on track.
Live and learn
Monaco was a challenging weekend for the team but Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell is keen to put that right on a fast, hard-braking Montréal circuit.
What did we learn in Monaco?
Despite coming away from the weekend with no points and thinking ‘that was a torrid event,’ there are positives. We were quite far off the pace on Thursday, but we were fortunate for the intervening Friday where we could review the data further, decide what was wrong and deal with it. The communications between our departments was very good here. We were assisted by having an extra day to process the data, but the way the team including everyone at Enstone and Viry reacted was admirable.
In terms of issues encountered, Nico’s gearbox was on the last race of a six-race cycle and we knew ahead of the Grand Prix that there was potential it could catch us out, and this it did. We made a balanced judgement on whether or not to change it before the race and accept a five-place penalty. If it had held we’d have scored a good tally of points. If we’d taken the penalty and started further back on the grid, points would have been a tall order. We have work to do there to make sure it we don’t have the same issue again and the next gearbox cycle is an evolution to counter the issues seen from the start of the season. We had problems for both drivers on Thursday; the power unit for Jolyon and electronics for Nico.
What can we say about Montréal?
Montréal is more demanding than Monaco regarding engine performance. It has longer straights, twisty bits with low speed corners but a bit more opportunity for the car to exercise its legs. Montréal is similar to Monaco in terms of demands on the driver to not make any minor errors as you can pay a heavy price. That is always a feature of Montréal, it puts a lot of energy on the brakes and tyres, lots of acceleration and braking which works the car hard. We will go with the softest three compounds, the softer of those compounds will be most favourable.
How important is it for the drivers to ride the kerbs at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?
There are a lot of kerbs around Montréal and to get a good time there you need to use them. Traditionally, in the last few races, that has not been our strong point, but we are making progress there and it will be a test for us. It will be a one-stop, I suspect. Temperature can be variable in Montréal which can make a big difference with tyres. Track temperature will play a significant part in strategy and set-up.
Are there any new parts for the car?
We have some new bits including some aero upgrades specifically for this grand prix.
Nico Hülkenberg is pumped full of energy after a shorter than wanted Monaco Grand Prix. He’s poised to put in a premier performance at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
How much do you enjoy the Canadian Grand Prix?
Canada is a great Grand Prix weekend, I love the circuit, I love the city and I love the atmosphere. The circuit is a combination of a street circuit and a race track. There are big walls on the exit with nice kerbs you have to ride. It is a track with a really nice flow so I enjoy it very much. The week in Montréal is always one of the best of the year.
Do you have any preference with the weather conditions?
Mixed weather conditions make things interesting and spices things up, but I don’t have any strong preference to weather, we will take it as it comes. Canada usually throws up some surprises.
What is the atmosphere like during the weekend?
At the hairpin, you are surrounded by grandstands left and right and as a driver you get a really good sense of atmosphere there. On the drivers parade you usually get goosebumps when you see all the fans cheering, it is a lot of fun, especially when it is a full house. You can see how much Canada loves Formula 1 because the whole city embraces the race and the locals give us a very warm welcome. There’s a huge buzz around town and a lot of events that create a special atmosphere.
How challenging is the circuit to drive?
Canada has a lot of focus on top speed, with a couple of straights combined with hard braking zones. It is one of the toughest tracks for brakes. You need confidence from the anchors, especially when you are trying to go deep into the corners. The final chicane can always be a tricky one as you can lose a lot of time there. It can be difficult as Canada is all about high speed, the low downforce configuration always makes the car feel light. Kerbs are important, you need to ride them well if you can and use them to ensure a good lap time.
Where are the overtaking opportunities?
It’s hard to overtake there, but the final chicane is definitely the best opportunity. You have to try and stay out of the ‘Wall of Champions’, though! The tyre choices are at the softer end of the range, so there will be some aggressive strategies, we will see what we can do.
Can do attitude
Jolyon Palmer secured a season best eleventh place finish in Monaco, and he is targeting going one better with a points haul in Montréal.
What do you make of Montréal?
I raced there for the first time last year, it is a street circuit again but a different one compared to Monaco, as there are more opportunities to overtake. The weather is a question mark as there have been many wet races there in the past. I enjoyed it last year, even though my race was rather curtailed for reasons outside my control. We should be a good chunk more competitive this time around. We’ll do everything we can to maximise the car around the track and we’ll be pushing all the way as usual. In terms of the city, the place is really cool and one which genuinely embraces Formula 1.
Is it a tricky circuit to navigate?
It is a fun track with lots of sequences, we need to prepare for the exits of the corners and get ready for the long straights. Then there is the ‘Wall of Champions’, where you can win or lose a lot of time, or hit the wall as well. Monaco is good practice I think, we had a strong race there and hopefully we can build on the confidence. It will be a similar story to Monaco in terms of the new cars, with width and wider rear tyres making things tricky. You are right up against the walls in a lot of corners in Canada, and it will be even tighter and narrower with these cars!
After the strong Monaco result, is it important now to keep building?
It is pretty hard to overtake in Monaco, so eleventh from P16 was it, and just one second away from getting the first point of the year. It felt much better than P11 and we can certainly take this momentum to Canada and aim for a strong weekend with a good result on Sunday.
Renault Sport Academy Round-up
Street life for Formula Renault Eurocupers
It has been a busy month for Renault Sport Academy’s trio of Formula Renault Eurocup contenders as they head for a well-earned rest following their triple header which included back-to-back street races in Pau and Monaco. The trio also found the time to sit down with four-time F1 world champion and former works Renault driver Alain Prost for some advice in the Renault Sport motorhome in Monaco.
Jarno Opmeer: Jarno endured an unlucky weekend in Pau with P11 and P22 finishes and followed that up with a testing outing in Monaco. Despite quick practice and qualifying pace, Jarno finished P13 in the opener, before a DNF in Race 2 after a minor collision.
“It was a disappointing weekend in Pau for me. In the first race, my pace was not great but I was able to gain one place and finished just outside the points. On Sunday, we had a good set-up and good pace, but in Qualifying 2 I could not get it together in a single lap. In the race, I was really quick but got hit from behind that resulted me having a spin.
“I had a lonely Race 1 in Monaco and touched another driver in the second race on the opening lap. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to drive on the legendary circuit.”
Max Fewtrell: Max sealed the Top Rookie accolade once again in Pau with P7 and P5 finishes. However, he could not quite get to grips with the tricky Monte Carlo circuit and had to settle for a P16 and a P13.
“It was a really cool experience racing around the streets of Pau for the first time and I learnt so much. Monaco was a disappointing weekend, results wise. I just couldn’t find the confidence I needed around there. But it was a special experience for me. We will come back stronger.”
Sun Yue Yang: Sun put behind a difficult start in Pau, where he had to retire from Race 1 following a series of accidents, by remaining cool to complete a series of consistent lap times and finish in P21. In Monaco, Sun finished P23 in the opening race.
“Pau was more valuable for me to learn than any race before. I learned a lot and achieved my target in Pau which proved to be a very valuable weekend. I really appreciate the full load of support from my team, coach, engineer, team boss and the Academy. They all gave me the trust and are a huge help in different ways, I need to continue putting in the effort to make it work.”
Bright start for Lundgaard in F4 Championship
After two rounds of the SMP F4 NEZ Championship, Christian Lundgaard sits second in the Drivers’ standings.
The young Dane began his Championship charge in style with a brace of wins at the Sochi Autodrom, Russia (19-20 May), before coming away with a strong points haul at the Smolensk Ring last weekend (27-28 May), which included a second place finish in Race 1 and a third in Race 3.
In Sochi, Lundgaard secured a P5 in the opening race after a front row start before dominating races two and three with back-to-back wins.
Staying in Russia, Lundgaard continued his impressive opening by booking another front row start for Race 1 at the Smolensk Ring, despite being pipped for pole by 0.001s. A P2 in that race was backed up by a P6 and a P3 in the final two races of the weekend, meaning he trails rival Xavier Lloveras by four points in the Championship.
“It was a positive weekend, I was especially happy to get a second in the opening race after starting from fourth. I learned a lot and made some mistakes and but I am aiming to make sure I don’t repeat them. Now I am focusing for the next race in Finland this week confident of another strong weekend.”
Delight as Rowland secures maiden F2 win
Renault Sport Formula One Team Development Driver Oliver Rowland won his first ever FIA Formula 2 race after a sublime drive in the Feature race in Monaco. Rowland was P3 on the grid, 0.232secs behind pole-man and pre-race favourite Charles Leclerc. The Sheffield youngster made a clean getaway off the grid to hold his P3 position going into the tight right-hander of Saint Devonte.
A clever move almost caught Leclerc off-guard from the first safety car restart, before a second safety car saw Oliver make his move.
A quick, strategic call from his DAMS team saw Oliver pit for fresh tyres and pass Leclerc who fell back to P5 and eventually retired with suspension damage.
Oliver had to manage the race well, and did just that, holding his nerve to fend off a charging Artem Markelov at the end to seal a maiden F2 win at the most glamorous of venues.
In Sunday’s sprint race, Oliver finished marginally outside the points in P9, but made up ground on Leclerc in the battle for the Championship after the Monacan teen failed to finish.
“The team did a great job in race one, everybody deserves it. Starting from third is never the easiest, but we remained calm and I’m really pleased with the outcome. It’s always difficult with the reverse grid in race two, but overall I’m extremely happy with the win and the points collected.”
Renault Sport Formula One Team’s Test Driver Nicholas Latifi endured a challenging weekend in Monaco weekend in Formula 2 after an exploding battery quashed any chances of scooping points.
But that has not deterred the Canadian in his quest of pursuing a seat in Formula 1. And following his first test in the R.S.17 in Barcelona on May 17th, Latifi has got the urge for more.
What is it like being a Canadian motorsport driver?
I have great pride in representing Canada on the world stage. Motorsport is big in Canada and North America. We have IndyCar here, but Formula 1 has prestige and is huge worldwide and I am trying to pursue that. There are only a handful of Canadians racing in Europe. It is nice to put Canada on the map and I hope to get to F1 one day.
Have you ever driven at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve?
I have never driven the track there actually. One day in a Formula 1 car and in a race one day! Anyone who has been to the Canadian Grand Prix knows how exciting it is. So many people go, the atmosphere is incredible. I think it was one of the best attended Grands Prix last year.
What was driving the R.S.17 like?
It was an honour and a privilege to drive the R.S.17 in a Pirelli test in Barcelona. It was an amazing opportunity to drive a modern day F1 car. The downforce, the bigger tyres, it was a cool experience. I found it quite easy to get up to speed and actually that surprised me. I approached it the same way as I approach any car. I was a bit uncertain before I jumped in, but after two laps I was fine. I had a big grin under the helmet when I drove it out of the pit lane, it was very impressive. There was so much grip, I was able to push very early which was good. I had a whole day in the car and I had to get up to speed quickly for the tyre test to get the right data for them. I think I did 141 laps in the end, I wasn’t sure what to expect physically. These new cars have high Gs, I was happy to do so many laps. I admit, my neck was quite sore the next day!
When did the F1 dream begin?
I started motorsport quite late as I only started karting when I was 13. I went to the Canadian Grand Prix when I was younger, I think my first was when I was 8 or 9 years old. I wasn’t actually a die hard Formula 1 fan then, I didn’t idolise any drivers. But as I got into racing I found some drivers I wanted to emulate. Michael Schumacher, what he accomplished was amazing. Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso too, they have characteristics in their driving which would be good to emulate.
How do you reflect on Monaco?
The weekend as a whole was frustrating, I started P9 but I thought we could have done better than that. I thought my laps were quite good and I was surprised to see them not as quick as I imagined. The battery exploded on the car in the Feature race so that ended my chances there. I think it could have been a decent weekend with a haul of points, but it wasn’t to be!
Renault e.dams cruise to home ePrix win
Renault e.dams are proving to be the team to beat in season three of Formula E as they secured their fifth win of the season in their home race in Paris on May 20th.
Sébastien Buemi took the honours as he extended his lead at the summit of the Drivers’ standings in the French capital. His and the teams’ success sparked a party atmosphere in Renault’s home ePrix. But celebrations will have to be limited as the team gear up for the Berlin ePrix on June 10th where Renault will be aiming to continue their strong form.
It was plain sailing for Buemi and Renault e.dams in Paris as he led from the lights after securing pole position. Two safety cars threatened to hamper the Swiss, who remained cool to beat Jose Maria Lopez under a safety car finish after championship rival Lucas di Grassi crashed out whilst chasing the lucrative Fastest Lap award.
Team-mate Nico Prost continued his solid run of points finishes coming home in fifth after starting from ninth on the grid as the Renault e.dams team lead the Constructors’ Championship by 75 points.
“It was not an easy one especially with all the safety cars and