Renault Attempts to Close F1 Gap for Ricciardo

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“Do not worry, the Maginot Line will hold them.”

“Hungry peasants are not cause for concern.”

“Renault engines will take the team to F1 poles and podiums in 2019, as the motors will be at least the equal of Mercedes and Ferrari.”

All three statements represent French optimism at its finest. We know what happened in the first two instances, but we will have to wait until the middle of March 2019 to find out if Daniel Ricciardo’s move to Renault can help the once-dominant French constructor return to glory, beginning with the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit.

Ricciardo himself was more in a 2020 frame of mind so far as predicting when Renault can mount a legitimate challenge to the big boys of Mercedes and Ferrari, but he has to drive in 2019 nonetheless.

Managing director for Renault, Cyril Abiteboul, described the prospects for 2019, saying, “We’re missing about 15 to 20 kilowatts of engine power [20-27bhp] in the race, which under certain conditions could be made up for by the Red Bull chassis. In qualifying we estimate our deficit at 40 kilowatts [53bhp], and that’s significant.”

Give us the option and we will take the more powerful engine every time and Abiteboul said much the same, “That’s why the main focus at first is on engine development. Next year, I don’t want to have to say anymore that we lacked too much power in qualifying. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari with the engine over the winter. With the chassis it will take a little longer.”

Ricciardo’s old team, Red Bull, is making a switch to Honda power plants for 2019, so they have about three months to get everything dialed in. Real-world performance and reliability do not necessarily translate to the track. Honda was behind Renault last year in the constructors’ standings as far as the track was concerned.

On the street, however, it takes three people pushing to keep a Renault moving alongside a Honda.