Three recent races on tight twisty tracks in Monaco, Canada and Azerbaijan have highlighted the R.S.16’s dislike of slow-speed corners. None have resulted in points finishes, although in Azerbaijan’s Grand Prix of Europe – the inaugural race to be held on a street circuit in its capital city of Baku – both drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, still finished in respectable 15th and 16th positions respectively.
Austria’s Red Bull Ring, however, and also the Silverstone circuit in Britain which follows a week later (the British GP on Sun 10 July) are expected to be much more to the liking of the R.S.16’s chassis. Both circuits’ long straights should also enable Renault Sport’s upgraded power unit – introduced in Monaco after a positive Barcelona test – to stretch its legs…
Looking ahead to the race in Spielberg, Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell commented: “Austria’s much more in the R.S.16’s comfort zone. We left the Barcelona test feeling quite positive and since then we’ve added the positive step of the B specification engine, but the circuits we’ve visited subsequently have really caused our progress to falter; that’s something we must address.”
A smooth track surface, added Bell, could mean generating tyre temperature is harder than normal but he believes one of the biggest challenges will be keeping the brakes in check during the race.
He explained: “Despite a higher speed, it is actually quite heavy on brakes, so you have to be vigilant with brake temperatures and ensure sufficient cooling. We’ve been quite aggressive with our tyre selection recently, opting for the ultrasoft tyre and we’re predicting that it’s likely to be a one, possibly two-stop, race.”
Magnussen and Palmer are also feeing more positive about their chances as well.
Dane Magnussen enthused: “I’m particularly looking forward to it. Austria is more my type of country, with the fresh air and mountains. It’s great to be away from a city for a Grand Prix and the circuit itself is really good. It’s small, but it’s high speed. It has a really nice flow and there are good opportunities for overtaking – like into turn two. I like it.”
And said Briton Palmer: “Yes, I’m looking forward to getting back into the European heartland. Unfortunately we were not that competitive in Baku but we should be more on it in Austria, which is a faster circuit and should suit our car a lot better.”
The Austrian GP – a race that Renault has twice won before as a team back in 1980 (Jean-Pierre Jabouille) and 1983 (Alain Prost) – takes place this Sunday at 1.00pm UK time.