FORMULA 1 2018 HEINEKEN CHINESE GRAND PRIX PREVIEW

 

Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul

 

Bahrain consolidated the start we saw in Melbourne. Nico was able to score a good haul of points and fight for position at the sharp end of the midfield. Carlos had a more difficult race – his pace was good but he was compromised by a poor start and found it difficult to regain ground. We saw yet again how competitive this season is and how every detail has to be absolutely on point. In such a dynamic midfield, we must accelerate the deployment of our performance plan.

 

But there are positives too; our car has potential, our overall execution level is good and we have shown a great improvement in pit stops, demonstrating the reward of months of work from design, R&D, production and race team departments. It needs to be confirmed in the next races, but we should use this as an element of pride for the capacity of the team to progress quickly.

 

Shanghai is an important race for the team. As well as keeping our on-track momentum moving forward, our off-track activation will equally be important. We have an expansive programme with DRAC (Renault’s joint venture in China) and Renault Sport Formula One Team’s partner, Tmall. I’m really looking forward to getting over to China and seeing how everything unfolds.

Stringing it together

After a solid start to the season for the contingent of Renault power-units, Engine Technical Director Rémi Taffin discusses the plan of action for the beginning of the season and what to expect in Shanghai.

 

How do we evaluate the Bahrain Grand Prix?

It was a difficult race, especially with a big battle in the midfield. Nico achieved a good result and we met our target of finishing in the points. It was a more difficult outing for Carlos and there are a number of areas to look at from his race.  We go to China where we will aim to bring an increase in performance in order to better place our drivers in both qualifying and the race. We want to climb in the rankings, it’s a case of refining all the details to improve our performance.

 

With two races under the belt, how are things looking with the 2018 Renault power unit?

We’ve started as we’ve planned. We blue-printed this development a year and a half ago, and it’s satisfying to see it going as planned. We got through a good winter testing plan, and it was very encouraging to see all six Renault-powered cars in the points in Australia. Everything looks in line in terms of reliability and that gives us a good platform for our continued development plan over the whole season. It’s a reasonable start.

 

What are the main characteristics of the Shanghai International Circuit?

China isn’t as difficult from a power unit point of view compared to Bahrain, so we’ll analyse the race in Bahrain and go from there. We’ve proved we’re competitive and ready to fight.

 

How difficult has it been to manage the three-engine rule for the season?

It doesn’t make a big difference as we knew about the rule change two or three years ago. It takes a bit longer for dyno validations and it’s a bit more severe for the engine, but in a sense, it doesn’t really change our world. The fewer engines you have, the less development you can bring in terms of hardware. When you have 10 engines a year you have more capability and opportunities to develop, but with three engines it’s more difficult, and that makes the job at Viry harder!

 

 

 

 

 

Chess Game

A tactical battle in Bahrain led Nico Hülkenberg to a hard-fought sixth place and more points in the championship standings. Now the German has his sights quickly focused on another haul in Shanghai.

 

What are your thoughts from a sixth-place finish in Bahrain?

It’s a decent result in the end and more points in the bag for the championship. Qualifying could have gone slightly better, given my Q2 lap would have placed me further up the grid for the race. But that’s racing and we’ll take the points and move on to the next one. We’ve certainly learnt quite a bit last weekend and we head to China with things to work on. Every track is different and I’m sure China will bring its own challenges. We’ll go there aiming to keep improving.

 

What stands-out from the Shanghai International Circuit?

The track is famous for the never-ending turn one / turn two combination. It’s a tricky complex because it’s easy to go in too hot, especially during qualifying, and it really eats the front-left tyre. This combination really draws you in, as it goes on a long time after a really fast entry. You are decreasing speed after that as it gets tighter and tighter and seems to go on forever, before reaching the downhill, hairpin turn three. The first lap on race day usually gets a bit tasty there, and it’s important to get the elbows out and hold your ground.

 

What other challenges does the circuit bring?

Historically, in China, looking after the tyres has been hard work. The first few corners are notorious for tyre-deg and later on in the lap, turn 13 is another long right-hander that takes even more life out of them. After that unique first sector, the rest of the lap has a bit of everything from low-speed to high-speed, which makes it challenging to find a balanced set-up. There’s a big long straight where you have enough time for a game of chess as you’re going in a straight line with your foot hard down for so long, then you wake up and you’re hard on the brakes. It’s really important to get your braking right there as it’s a pretty important corner. Again, on Sunday, it’s going to be one of the main overtaking spots.

 

 

 

 

Quick Fix

Carlos Sainz finished narrowly outside of the points in Bahrain, but he is keen to dust himself down and senses an immediate turnaround this weekend.

 

What’s the verdict from Bahrain?

It was a frustrating weekend in the end and we ended narrowly off the points. I’m keen to brush that one aside and get set for the next race. Now all my focus is on China and I’m looking forward to having a positive weekend. It is a track I enjoy a lot and I am sure we can perform strongly here.

 

Is it fair to say last season’s Chinese Grand Prix was your most interesting Formula 1 race?

Last year’s race was certainly one of my more memorable Grand Prix. It was a risky decision to start the race on dry tyres and everyone else on Intermediates. I had a tricky start, I could barely get off the line on a damp track and then had a spin at turn 3. Happily, risks sometimes pay off and I capitalised to finish seventh. It was definitely an interesting one!

 

What do you like about China?

I enjoy the food there, especially Peking duck. It’s actually one of my favourite dishes when I travel to Asia, especially China. Of course, I always miss the Spanish cuisine, but I don’t complain when there’s Peking duck on the menu! I have very good memories of the drivers’ dinner we organised in Shanghai a couple of years ago – all 22 of us got together in the city centre and it gave me the opportunity to do some sight-seeing. My Chinese is limited to ‘ni hao’, but I suppose that’s a useful expression to know as I can say it to everyone I see.

 

Are you impressed by the facilities at the Shanghai International Circuit?

I have to say that the paddock in China is the biggest one I’ve ever seen, it’s huge. Before a session starts, I usually give myself about a minute of time to go from my room to the garage, but in Shanghai it’s a minimum of three minutes because the distances are so big! This means I need to change all my routine and schedule for China!

 

 

Renault Sport Racing

 

Victory for Markelov, learning curve for Aitken in Bahrain

Renault Sport Formula One Team’s Test & Development Driver Artem Markelov stormed to an impressive FIA Formula 2 Sprint race victory with a commanding performance in Bahrain.

 

Artem, wearing the Renault colours for the first time, enjoyed a remarkable third place in Saturday’s Feature race after charging through the field following a pit-lane start. He had qualified seventeenth but a stall on the grid meant his Russian Time machine was wheeled into the pit-lane for the race start. Artem, however, did not let that deter him from surging through the leaderboard and into the final podium place.

 

In the Sprint, the Russian was well in the mix in the opening laps after his move up the field from sixth on the grid. He was able to manage his tyres superbly, opting not to pit, and controlled the race to the chequered flag.

 

Third & Reserve Driver Jack Aitken endured a challenging Formula 2 debut, which saw him take home two-points following a ninth place in the Feature race. In the Sprint, Jack stalled on the line, but used the 23-lap race to learn more about his new ART Grand Prix Formula 2 car, finishing 18th.

 

Artem Markelov: “I’m really happy to win the Sprint race, so thanks to my team for doing such a great job. I’d also like to thank Renault Sport for supporting me all weekend and, of course, my fans. The first race was quite difficult, but I had to really concentrate and in the end we fought for that third place. I made a nice start in the Sprint and had to manage my tyres, which proved difficult, but we did enough in the end. We have the potential and I want to improve in Baku and put on a show!”

 

Jack Aitken: “Despite having really good pace at times we struggled to convert that into good results. Traffic in qualifying cost us a shot for a top five position and problems with our starts all weekend held us back in both races. We had a number of problems, but we know we can be right there when we fix these issues.”

 

Eurocup quartet ready for season-opener

Renault Sport Academy quartet Max Fewtrell, Christian Lundgaard, Arthur Rougier and Victor Martins return to action this weekend at the season-opening round of the Formula Renault Eurocup series at Circuit Paul Ricard, France.

 

It kicks off a big season of racing at the French circuit for Renault, with Formula 1 returning to the south of France for the first time in 28 years with the Grand Prix in June.

 

Max, Eurocup rookie champion in 2017, has his sights firmly set on taking the overall title this season, and he makes the switch of teams from Tech-1 to R-ace GP, last year’s Teams’ Champions, for 2018.

 

Christian took two Drivers’ titles last season in his maiden year with the Academy, as he makes the step up to the Eurocup with MP Motorsport, where he will be aiming to make it a third championship crown in Renault colours.

 

Two new recruits, Arthur and Victor, will both make their Academy debuts in the Eurocup at Le Castellet. Arthur, French F4 Champion in 2017, drives for Fortec Motorsport, while Victor, runner-up to Arthur in French F4, is on-board with R-ace GP.

 

Max: “We finished the final test on top and that’s a good confidence booster for me and the team heading to Paul Ricard. I can’t wait to get going, we know what we’re capable of, so we have to stay focused and achieve our goals.”

 

Christian: “We showed some solid pace in testing and we’re up there near the front of the field. Now we’re looking forward to the first race and we’re aiming for some good results.”

 

Arthur: “I’m really excited for the season to begin and I’m looking forward to beginning 2018 on the track where I won the French F4 Championship last year. We’ve done a lot of work in the winter, so I hope that will pay off with some good results.”

 

Victor: “I’m really excited for the first race weekend of the season, Formula Renault is a new challenge for me and we’ve worked hard over testing to be best prepared. I’m looking forward to battling with other drivers on track.”

 

Academy Focus: Sun Yue Yang

Renault Sport Academy Driver Sun Yue Yang opened up his 2018 British Formula 3 Championship at Oulton Park last week with a sixth place in the opening-race in Cheshire.

 

Sunny, 16 and from Shanghai, is driving for British-based Carlin this season in the Formula 3 Championship, as he continues his development with the Academy, where he has been a member since 2016.

 

Ahead of this weekend’s Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix, Sunny discusses life at Enstone, his targets in British Formula 3 this season, and what he gets up to in his spare time.

 

What’s it like being a Renault Sport Academy Driver?

It’s very good being a Renault Sport Academy Driver and very beneficial for my racing career. The last two years have been busy and last season was a real challenge, but through the help of the Academy, my family and my coach, I have taken little steps and I’m going for a positive British F3 campaign this year.

 

Are you enjoying racing in the British Formula 3 Championship this year?

The level is slightly easier compared to Formula Renault Eurocup last season and the car is easier to drive. I’ve been working on my racing technique and it’s a very good category to race in. The F3 cars are fun to drive as they are quick and very stable, meaning I can develop my racing skills at a good pace.

 

How did the first round at Oulton Park go?

The first race went well with sixth place. The second two races were more difficult, and I need to better prepare myself for the next one, which is in Rockingham at the end of the month. I’ve been testing again recently, and I look forward to adding better results over the next few races.

 

What do you do in your spare time?

I study at home when I’m not racing, mainly maths and physics with a bit of chemistry, English and Chinese. I read quite a lot as I’m home schooled. I like to read books and write, and, when I can, I try to do other sports. I don’t have too many friends to hang out with, so I tend to do a lot of studying.

 

Are you excited for the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend?

I’m very excited and I will be with Renault for the entire weekend. I’m looking forward to meeting all the guests and VIPs, especially those from Tmall as they are the biggest shopping website in China. They are very powerful within Chinese business, so I hope they will be a great help to not only my cause, but also for Renault Sport Formula One Team. It’s going to be a busy weekend for me, I have a lot of things to do, but I’m looking forward to that.

 

Ciaron’s Corner:

The Chinese Grand Prix has been a regular on the Formula 1 calendar since 2004 and has particular resonance for Renault since clinching the 2005 World Championship titles at the Shanghai International Circuit.

 

The circuit has a variety of corners, from the flat-out left-hander at Turn 8, where the cars see lateral accelerations of over 4.5g, to the low speed hairpin at Turn 14, taken at around 70kph, at the end of the 1.4km straight.

 

Turn 1/2 is a unique corner in Formula 1, with the drivers turning in at over 320kph, and balancing the car with brakes, throttle, gears and steering as the corner tightens gradually to the minimum speed of around 100kph.

 

Tyres:

Medium (white) – Hülkenberg 2, Sainz 2

 

Soft (yellow) – Hülkenberg 4, Sainz 4

 

Ultrasoft (purple) –  Hülkenberg 7, Sainz 7

 

 

China Stats:

Nico

Starts: 7

Points: 9

Average Points: 1.28 (F1 career average: 3.05)

KM: 4,552

Laps: 835

KM Raced: 1,853

Laps Raced: 340

Positions Gained 2017 (+/-): -5

Fastest Lap: 1:38.015 (2017)

Fastest Qualifying: 1:33.580 (2017)

Average Qualifying: 12th

Average Finish: 13th

 

Carlos

Starts: 3

Points: 8

Average Points: 2.66 (F1 career average: 1.91)

KM: 1,946

Laps: 357

Raced KM: 910

Raced Laps: 167

Positions Gained 2017 (+/-): +4

Fastest Lap: 1:37.398 (2017)

Fastest Qualifying: 1:34.150 (2017)

Average Qualifying: 11th

Average Finish: 9th

 

Renault in China

Starts: 66

Wins: 2

Podiums: 10

Pole Positions: 5

Fastest Laps: 3

Points: 279

 

This time last year

Qualifying:

Palmer – P18, started P20 (1:35.279)

Hülkenberg – P7 (1:33.580)

 

Race:

Palmer- P13

Hülkenberg – P12

 

Unusual fact: The city of Shanghai has descended by 6ft since 1921, courtesy of mass migration, its 145 skyscrapers and soft soil on the ground.