FORMULA 1 2018 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
Foreword from Renault Sport Racing Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul
The Italian Grand Prix is the final European race of the season and it’s an important time for the team as it marks the end of a cycle. We’re getting ready for a challenging weekend given the characteristics of this track and the penalty for Nico, but we’re still motivated to seize any opportunity, especially to take advantage of this reference circuit to get a clearer look on the engine side.
Our advantage to our competitors has reduced, but we’re not discouraged by the challenge as there’s still a lot to be played out this season and the goal to stay fourth until Sunday evening in Abu Dhabi is entirely within our reach.
We have further upgrades planned on the chassis for Monza and we hope it will work just as well as the ones introduced in Spa.
Let’s talk power units…
Ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, Engine Technical Director, Rémi Taffin, discusses the present and future of the Power Unit.
What are you expecting at the Italian Grand Prix?
It’s a difficult race, where engine power makes the difference. Spa posed quite a challenge for us and Monza is at least just as restrictive and demanding. We are going to do our best to produce a strong result. We will have a very low-mileage Power Unit and will be able to get the most from it with the most aggressive modes we currently have for qualifying.
Can you talk to us about the new C specification?
The C Spec is an evolution of the current B Spec engine. It’s significantly more powerful. Conversely, it’s possibly not as reliable as the current generation, hence the different choices made by each team. Depending on fuel used, the power gain is in the order of 0.3s per lap in qualifying on a circuit like Monza, which is a substantial step forward.
Who is going to use this new specification?
As I previously mentioned, it depends on each team’s strategy and their goals for the remaining eight races of the season. Red Bull Racing will use the C Spec right from the free practices at Monza because they are in a position to prioritise performance without having to worry about those behind them in the championship. For our part and McLaren, we will not be using this specification, because reliability and consistency are the essential assets to reach our end-of-season goals.
You have introduced a new, more reliable and lighter MGU-K on the Renault, but what about the customer teams?
Today only the Renault team uses this version. McLaren and Red Bull Racing did not want to make the needed changes for its integration. They have opted to take and assume this clearly identified reliability risk. However, to respond to the demands expressed after the incident with Max Verstappen’s car that saw him retire in Hungary, we have developed an evolution of the version used by our two customers to reinforce its sturdiness.
Nico Hülkenberg was penalised at Spa after the integration of new elements, are new penalties expected from now to the end of the season?
Nico will get a ten-position grid penalty in Monza after the incident this weekend. It’s tactically interesting to introduce a new Power Unit in his car. This should enable us to end the season without any other engine-related penalties.
What is your assessment after 13 Grands Prix and how do you foresee next season?
Overall, we are still suffering from a general power deficit, but we have improved at the same pace as our competitors. This is encouraging, but clearly not enough, because our objective is to catch up and surpass them as fast as possible. We need to bring more significant performance steps next year and this is being readied now. Next year’s engine is already on our dynos and the first results are promising. For 2019, larger human and financial resources than this year have already been allocated to allow us to continue our improvement at a faster pace.
An uncharacteristic error in Spa forced Nico Hülkenberg’s retirement, but the German is keen to dust that aside as he aims for a positive result in Monza.
Where does Monza rank on your list of favourite circuits?
I do like Monza, it’s a place which carries a lot of history, so that makes it very special. The atmosphere is never disappointing there, it’s fantastic. Circuits with history are always interesting and fun; it’s a great feeling to race at these places.
What are the main characteristics of the circuit?
In terms of the actual track, it’s obviously very high-speed throughout; it’s called the Temple of Speed for a reason! It means a low-downforce setting on the car to suit high, straight line speed. Low downforce can mean the car feels light and uncomfortable, and that’s something we’ll be adjusting to in the Friday practice sessions. You need to be quite brave on the brakes as Monza has hard braking zones, especially the chicane at the end of the main straight. Of course, there are some legendary corners like the Lesmos, Ascari and the Parabolica, which are a lot of fun to drive when you get them nailed.
Do you like the Italian atmosphere?
The atmosphere is always good to experience in Italy; the Italians know their motorsport, especially Formula 1, and they get very passionate when it comes to town. It’s a special atmosphere at Monza. I like my food and this place is pretty good for that. I’ll be sure to eat a pizza at some point over the weekend. It all adds up for a very fun experience.
What’s there to say about Spa?
The weekend didn’t go to plan. I hold my hands up for the incident as it was my misjudgement. I’m sorry to my competitors who I eliminated from the race. We have an immediate opportunity in Italy to go again, and I’ll be doing my best for a good result. We know we’re going to be near the back of the pack with the grid penalty, but hopefully the pace will be there which will propel us into the points.
Carlos Sainz fell narrowly short of the points in Spa after starting from the back of the grid. Now the Spaniard is targeting a return to the top ten on his birthday weekend in Italy.
What do you like about the Italian Grand Prix?
The Italian Grand Prix weekend is always an enjoyable one. My birthday falls over that weekend – this year it’s the Saturday – so I’ll be targeting a good birthday present in qualifying! I might excuse myself and have a pizza at some point over the weekend, but we’re here to race and the nice Italian food will have to be put on hold. The Italian fans are excellent, I even have an Italian fan club, so it’s great to have that support! We always stop to sign autographs on the way in to the circuit, so that’s a good way to begin the day.
Do you enjoy driving at the Temple of Speed?
Monza is a cool circuit to drive, it’s certainly up there in the top five. High-speed circuits like Monza give you a thrill, and this place is known as the Temple of Speed. I’m without points there in my Formula 1 career, but I’ve had some success at Monza early in my single-seater career. 2014 was a particularly good year, I remember recording two pole positions and taking a win in the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship.
What is there to consider in terms of car set-up?
Monza brings a low downforce balance to focus on finding a high-top speed. It takes a bit of getting used to as the car doesn’t feel as grippy as it usually does in the corners. A lot of Friday will be spent learning about this and finding different set-up balances.
How do you reflect on Spa?
We knew Spa was going to be a tricky weekend, but we have some positives to build on ahead of Monza. The car felt good on Friday, but, for reasons we are still working on, we were unable to convert that pace in qualifying. We did our best on Sunday, finished the race and gathered good data to do our analysis this week and aim for improvements.
Renault Sport Racing
Points for Markelov, Aitken falls short in Spa
Renault Sport Formula One Team’s Test & Development Driver Artem Markelov recorded strong finishes of sixth and fifth at Spa-Francorchamps to maintain his place in fifth in the FIA Formula 2 Drivers’ Championship.
Artem battled hard to finish sixth in the Feature race having started tenth, while in the Sprint the Russian ended fifth, three seconds off a podium finish.
Third & Reserve Driver Jack Aitken left Spa empty handed with finishes of eleventh and tenth. The pair head to Monza for round ten of the championship this weekend.
Jack Aitken: “Although the results show a difficult weekend, we had encouraging pace in the races, so I’m really pleased with that coming on. In race two we were one of the fastest guys at the end, even with a slow puncture! Qualifying held us back, so next week in Monza I’ll be looking to string a whole weekend together.”
Artem Markelov: “The Spa weekend wasn’t good, even though we scored some solid points. We’re looking forward to Italy and I hope we will find a good set-up on the car and show everyone our pace.”
Double podium for Hubert to extend GP3 Series lead
Renault Sport Affiliated Driver Anthoine Hubert extended his advantage at the top of the GP3 Series to 26 points by taking two podiums at Spa-Francorchamps.
Anthoine finished third in race one and claimed the fastest lap for a bonus two points, before picking up second place in race two. Three rounds remain in GP3 with Italy next up this weekend.
Anthoine Hubert: “I’m happy with my Belgian weekend. We scored big points again and we had great pace during all sessions. I had a lot of fun with some good moves in the races that ended with two podiums. Now the focus is on Monza next weekend where I’ll target another strong weekend!”
Mixed outing for Fenestraz in Misano
Renault Sport Academy Driver Sacha Fenestraz picked up four points at round seven of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in Misano, to remain eleventh in the series.
Sacha finished eighth in race two for his only points of the weekend, racing well from fourteenth on the grid. He finished eleventh in race one and twelfth in a wet race three.
Sacha Fenestraz: “Unfortunately another not so great weekend for me. I had to progress a lot between practice and qualifying and I tried my best in the races from difficult grid positions. Race two we were competitive on a drying track, and made up some places to get some points. It’s another tough weekend, but we keep on learning and now it’s about working even harder to keep progressing. I’m looking forward to the Nürburgring.”
Eurocup quartet Hungary for season restart
Renault Sport Academy Drivers Christian Lundgaard, Victor Martins, Max Fewtrell and Arthur Rougier resume their Formula Renault Eurocup season as the series heads to the Hungaroring for round seven this weekend.
Christian, second in the standings, and Victor, third, are aiming to pick up from where they left off at Spa in July, where they both secured wins.
Max, fourth in the championship, has the most victories in the Eurocup in 2018, and has his sights set on returning to the podium after a disappointing outing in Belgium. Arthur picked up his first points of the season last time out, and targets a similar haul in Hungary.
Christian Lundgaard: “After a shorter break than last time, I’m really looking forward to getting back on track. It’s a new circuit for me, I’ve never been there, so that’s going to be a challenge but I love a new challenge. The team and I have been working hard all year and had some really good results, but it’s time to work even harder after Spa to retake the championship lead. The Hungaroring looks mega and I can’t wait to be back in the car and doing what I do best.”
Victor Martins: “The summer break has finally finished, so I’m happy to be back racing. It’s time to work just as hard as we did in the first-half of the season, and achieve our goals. I trained a lot over the summer break to be ready for this final push and to ensure I can fight for victories.”
Max Fewtrell: “I’m really looking forward to getting back on track and gaining some points to close the gap to the guys ahead of me. I feel the championship position at the moment isn’t reflecting the true performance of the team and myself. I really like the circuit in Hungary, it has a nice flow to it and it suits my style. I always feel comfortable racing around there.”
Arthur Rougier: “I’m feeling confident for this race weekend. We made a big improvement at Spa to be fighting at the top. Qualifying will be important as it’s a hard circuit for overtaking. I’ve never been to the Hungaroring, but I’ve put a lot of work in on the simulator. It’s an important weekend to confirm our improvements.”
This is a low downforce circuit with high top speeds and it is common to see the cars sliding around early in the weekend as the drivers become accustomed to the low downforce and heavy braking into the first two chicanes. Braking into the first corner is a critical point of the qualifying lap – front tyre warm-up is often tricky on the out lap as the long straights allow them to cool, and it is hard for the driver to judge how good the front grip will be when he starts braking. Apart from the two slow chicanes the corners are fast and the high average speed of the lap makes this the shortest race of the year.
Medium (white) – Hülkenberg 2, Sainz 2
Soft (yellow) – Hülkenberg 3, Sainz 3
Supersoft (red) – Hülkenberg 8, Sainz 8
Average Points: 3.28 (F1 career average: 3.08)
KM Raced: 2,120
Laps Raced: 366
Positions Gained 2017 (+/-): +1
Fastest Lap: 1:26.131 (2017)
Fastest Qualifying: 1:22.836 (2016)
Average Qualifying: 11th
Average Finish: 10th
Average Points: 0 (F1 career average: 2.02)
Raced KM: 904
Raced Laps: 156
Positions Gained 2017 (+/-): +1
Fastest Lap: 1:26.210 (2017)
Fastest Qualifying: 1:23.496 (2016)
Average Qualifying: 15th
Average Finish: 13th
Renault in Italy
Pole Positions: 11
Fastest Laps: 6
This time last year
Palmer – P17
Hülkenberg – P14
Hülkenberg – P13
0.202 – Nico recorded his quickest reaction time off the line of the season in Monza last year.