The team is bound to be among the centre of attention with its new Australian star driver Daniel Ricciardo who, in front of his home crowd, will be looking for a positive result in the squad’s all-new R.S.19 car.
The R.S.19 along with Ricciardo and team-mate Nico Hülkenberg were all ‘unveiled’ at a press launch at the team’s UK base at Enstone in February.
Since then, both drivers plus the team’s technicians and engineers have been busy putting the first miles on the R.S.19 during two official F1 testing at Spain’s Barcelona circuit along with their rival teams.
Close to 3000 miles in fact with the R.S.19 and its Renault E-tech power unit racking up an astonishing 4473 km during the two four-day tests – the third highest achieved by the ten teams present.
Initial signs have been positive, too: Hülkenberg set the fifth fastest time overall behind Ferrari’s and Mercedes’s drivers Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas respectively. He was also only six tenths off a second adrift of Vettel’s P1 time. Ricciardo was just three tenths further behind in P12; however it will likely not be until qualifying at Melbourne this Saturday that Renault will truly know where it stands in terms of performance.
For those UK fans watching live coverage on Sky Sports, qualifying is from 03:30 on Saturday morning with coverage of Sunday’s race beginning at 03:30 on Sunday. Free-to-air channel Channel 4 will show highlights of qualifying at midday on the Saturday and then, on Sunday, a re-run of the race from 14:30.
As is tradition, the new F1 season begins with several so-called ‘fly-away’ races in continents outside of Europe.
After Melbourne, the Renault team will quickly pack down its pit garage before everything is transported 7500 miles west to the Arabian Gulf for the Bahrain GP at the Sakhir circuit (31 March). From there it will all then return over 4000 miles east for the next race in Shanghai, China (14 April). There then follows a 4000 haul back west to Baku, Azerbaijan for round four (28 April) before staff from the team’s engine development and chassis technology bases in Viry-Chȃtillon, Paris and Enstone, UK can return home for the start of the European races in May.
Speaking after the Barcelona test, Renault Sport Racing’s Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul summed up the team’s thoughts ahead of the new season.
He commented: “On the whole we have had a good couple of weeks testing in Barcelona and we are satisfied with the work accomplished ahead of the first race of the season.
“The main objective of winter testing is to evaluate parts to their limits and some things worked better than others: that’s all part of the game.
“Nico and Daniel gave constructive feedback throughout the fortnight as they shared driving duties each day and helped our engineering team make progress where necessary.
“Overall, we have had great factory-circuit correlation and co-operation and gathered some critical information. We established that our engine performance is matching our expectations, and the chassis concept is good. We now need to build on from here, and continue to feed back into performance.
“Like everyone else, we have lots of work to do ahead of Melbourne but we feel we have maintained the momentum from last season and look forward to getting back out on track.”