It’s been a hectic few weeks for the team following a fortnight of testing its new R.S.18 challenger around the Barcelona F1 circuit in Spain with drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz.
The cars were then transported back to base at Enstone, UK where they were checked over, stripped down and packed away with all manner of spare components for the long-haul flight to Melbourne – along of course with all the team’s personnel.
Once delivered to the paddock the team’s job is not just to re-assemble and prep the cars but also to build up the pit garages in which its R.S.18s will be worked on during the race weekend.
The hectic schedule doesn’t stop there: after Australia, everything heads 7500 miles north-west to Bahrain for its GP on 8 April and then 4000 and more miles east for the next race in Shanghai, China just a week later.
The official pre-season test in Barcelona produced encouraging results – Sainz set the fourth fastest time of all – as the team looks to close the gap on F1’s ‘top three’, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
Renault Sport Racing Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul commented: “Ahead of us is a very long 21-race calendar during which many things will happen. This puts a premium on stability and consistency, which we feel we have increased as we enter our third year as Renault Sport Formula One Team.
“We have a new car with lots of things going on aerodynamically and under the bodywork that are not immediately visible. Everything as a whole will evolve a lot over the course of the year.”
And said Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell: “We had a solid winter test campaign with reliability so that’s good cause for optimism. In terms of performance, it’s difficult to say where we are. The top three teams are out in front again but behind you have us, Force India, Toro Rosso, Haas and McLaren in the mix.
“There’s not an awful lot to separate us, so it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions before the first Grand Prix. I think we’ve done a good job of developing the car and I think we’ll be in there with a chance of a haul of points.”
The race around the twisty Albert Park circuit takes place on Sunday (06:10 UK time) and can be watched live in the UK on Sky Sports with highlights also later shown on Channel 4. Qualifying is on Saturday at 06:00 UK time.
Hülkenberg wisely stated that it will not be until qualifying that everyone’s true speed becomes apparent. But he said: “I feel positive. We’ve collected a lot of miles and data over winter testing which isn’t always the case, so that’s really beneficial to the team. I have a year’s worth of experience with the Renault family so that’s a good advantage for the first race.”
For Sainz, Melbourne marks the start of his first full season with the team having joined it for 2017’s final three GPs.
The Spaniard, who recently tackled the Monte Carlo Rallye in the new Mégane R.S., enthused: “I’m feeling good and that confidence has been boosted by pre-season testing. We gained a lot of data and, from both a personal view and the team view, we know we have to begin the season in Australia on a bright note and all of our efforts will be going in to achieve just that.”