Renault have become the latest team to launch their 2018 car, the RS18, that they hope will bring them one step closer to the front of the Formula 1 grid.
According to the team the RS18 “will continue the team’s upward performance trajectory.” Featuring an incredibly striking revised black and yellow livery, the car is running the same aggressive aero on the sidepods and rear wing that is seen on the other 2018 cars. The team have also boasted that the RS18 has an improved suspension concept and greater aerodynamic downforce, something they felt was a weakness with the 2017 car.
Since buying back the team in 2016, Renault have invested heavily in the facilities at Enstone and have worked on workforce number as well. All in a bid to make tangible progress towards their goal of challenging for, and winning, a world championship by 2020. Staff numbers have increased by more than 35%, and are now back up beyond 600 members having dwindled when the team were suffering fanatical strife in 2015.
The main area the team will be judged on however is their engines, which were beset with serious reliability problems last year. These engine problems caused trouble not just for Renault, but their customer teams Red Bull and Toro Rosso, with Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost going as far as to accuse the Renault team of sabotaging their engines in order to get sixth place in the constructors championship. Although the allegations were never proven or disproven, team principal Cyril Abiteboul has admitted since that the team “played with fire” when they decided to chase performance only in a bid to catch up with Mercedes and Ferrari.
“Our headline target is to show continued progression through results,” said team boss Abiteboul. “We want to be able to showcase our progression in every regard; power unit, chassis, operations, drivers. Everything must improve and we must continue to grow. We want to demonstrate this in many different ways, from the teams we will be directly racing against, to the gap to the leaders, including also our fan base and the respect that our team will inspire in our way we behave on and off track.”
The 2017 season was a bit of a mixed bag for the Renault team. While it was not as good as the team had hoped, they still managed to improve their place in the Constructors Championship by three places to finish sixth in the standings. The team did have a late season change, with under performing Brit Jolyon Palmer being fired in favour for Toro Rosso young driver Carlos Sainz.
Sainz is now on loan from red Bull to Renault for the 2018 season, and seems fully committed to working for the new team for the season, and delivering the results.
“The general approach is to work harder every day to continue on a positive trend. For sure the main target is to take a step forward, both me as a driver and the whole team.” Sainz explained. “It’s difficult to predict how big that step will be, however, I’m confident as I have been pushing hard during the winter and I know everyone at the factory is giving their very best. I´m convinced this is going to be an exciting season.”
He will be joined by Nico Hulkenberg, who is starting his second season at the team. The German is one of the higher rated drivers on the grid, having scored solid results throughout his time in Formula 1. Despite his great results, Hulkenberg holds the unenviable record of most number of starts without finishing on the podium.
“I’m feeling positive and optimistic in myself,” said the German driver. “We’re in a good position. For this year we want to build on the good platform of last season. 2017 was about bedding in, now I want to get ready to go. I get a good feeling, we have put the work in over the winter and hard work usually pays off. I’m eager to get out there. Put me in the car.”
Renault will be aiming for the podium steps this year if they are to stay on track with their plan of challenging for the championship in 2020.
Constructors World Champions Mercedes, and their biggest competitor Ferrari will be launching their cars on the 22nd of February.
2018 car unveilings and launch dates
Haas: February 14, VF-18
Williams: February 15, FW41
Red Bull: February 19, RB14
Sauber: February 20, C37
Renault: February 20, RS18
Mercedes: February 22, Silverstone
Ferrari: February 22, Online
McLaren: February 23, TBC
Toro Rosso: February 26, Barcelona
Force India: To be confirmed