The R.S.17 became one of the first of F1’s new breed of cars – expected to be much faster because of wider tyres, bodywork and more downforce – to be unveiled when drivers Jolyon Palmer and Nico Hülkenberg took the wraps off it in London (21 Feb).
Renault Sport Racing’s Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul stated: “We are aiming for fifth in the Constructors’ Championship and it’s clear that to achieve this we need to be scoring points regularly. This is a target for the team collectively and the drivers individually.”
And enthused Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell: “I’m very confident. Our performance metrics show that we’ve made gains in a strong and consistent manner throughout its development. If you look at the car itself you will see tremendous attention to detail and sophistication, illustrating that it’s been designed by a talented and knowledgeable group of people. This is a proper Renault Formula 1 car and what we know about it so far gives me a lot of optimism.”
He added: “It’s no secret that our 2016 car was not one born of a lengthy or smooth development process, so the R.S.17 is the first real Renault Formula 1 car of the modern era...”
Bell also touched on how the new regulations have had an impact on the R.S.17’s design: “It’s 200mm wider, there’s a lot more downforce and there are more possibilities to develop the bodywork with new bodywork envelopes to play with. Everything’s new: suspension, bodywork, internal components, the lot…
“Even the monocoque is different and that’s primarily because of the packaging work we’ve done with Viry. We’ve been able to come up with efficient packaging around the power unit and the cooling systems and we’ve found what we think is a nice solution.”
In charge of the R.S.17’s 900hp-plus power unit is Engine Technical Director Rémi Taffin. ‘Harvesting’ (recovery) in particular is set to be affected because straight line speeds are likely to be less meaning shorter braking distances (it’s during braking that energy is harvested). Taffin commented: “We needed to push on every element of the design. We wanted to save weight on the overall package. The MGU (motor generator unit), the electrical motors, the battery; these were all areas of particular attention for us. It’s a very demanding process...”
With Renault Sport Racing having had far more time to design the R.S.17 compared to 2016’s R.S.16, Taffin believes chassis and engine (which will still use a ‘pre-chamber ignition’ system) will work much better together.
He said: “If you were able to be part of the team and look at the naked car and could evaluate the architecture, you would be able to see a lot of difference between last year’s unit and its installation and this year’s. The power unit is made to suit the car and this is a fundamental difference. The engine and the chassis fit together, and not like a puzzle with the R.S.16! The R.S.17 is far more homogeneous.”
Palmer and Hülkenberg are expected to get their first runs in the R.S.17 this week (27 Feb-2 March) at the Barcelona F1 circuit with more testing planned for there from 7-10 March. After that the cars will be flown to Melbourne for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on 26 March.