Interview: Vasseur on Renault's return

Interview: Vasseur on Renault's return

6 January 2017 – Renault returned to Formula 1 as a works team in 2016, after taking over Lotus. Although it suffered on track with an underdeveloped car, team chiefs were hard at work behind-the-scenes, implementing a new structure and guiding significant investment. GPUpdate.net caught up with Racing Director Frédéric Vasseur.

Was the 2016 season tougher than you expected?

For sure, we expected a tough season, and it was a tough season. Was it better or worse than expected? I didn't spend too much time on this! But the situation is like this. Over the season I think we did good progress, in terms of preparation on track, on tyre management, [we scored] some points, but we didn't develop the car at all, and it was quite impossible to improve on the grid. But for 2017, the most important was to improve on the preparation side, not on the 2016 car, because that wouldn't bring something for the next season.

How difficult has it been to find a good structure?

We did a lot of investment, we are building up a new part of the factory, and it was very challenging on this side. We decided quite soon to stop the development on the 2016 car, I think on purpose, because, at the end of the day, we have nothing to gain, one or two positions on the grid – it's not a big difference. For the future, as we have a mid-term project, it was much more important to focus on the structure of the company, the people and the organisation, rather than the 2016 car.

Has everything gone to plan on that front so far?

Yeah, we are sticking to the roadmap. We spent a lot of time at the beginning to do the inventory of the situation at Enstone. Everything is improving, but it's a long way also, and I think it was important to do it step-by-step. Recruiting is quite tough, because when you are signing someone, at some stage they will join six months or one year later. I don't want to say we did a good job over the season, as it's quite difficult to say something like this when you are on the second part of the grid, but I think we did a job on the restructuring of the company.

Nico Hülkenberg arrives for 2017, replacing Kevin Magnussen to partner Jolyon Palmer. What are your thoughts on Magnussen's time at the team?

I think we had a good collaboration. He scored good points for us, he did the job and he was really committed with us. He has his own character, I have mine, and it was not always easy! But that's that. OK, he did a good job, but we had to do a choice. We spoke together after the decision and I think that we will keep a very good relationship, because we had a very open discussion.

What could he have done better over the course of the season?

It's not easy. It [the decision] was really on the edge. We decided to keep one of our guys to have continuity in the team, between 2016 and 2017. If you have a look at the results between Kevin and Jolyon, Kevin was dominating the first part of the season, and the second part was so-so. It was 50/50. It was tough.

Do you have any regrets over how Renault handled the driver situation? Magnussen joked at one point that even the Pope had an offer to join the team for 2017…

I think it's a mistake to have regrets. You are always able to improve. But I think that we have to think about the future, much more than about the past. I don't have to discuss the comments that he made.

How impressed were you with the way Palmer reacted to the pressure?

If you have a look at Jolyon, and this was part of the decision also, in the past, in the junior series, he was always able to improve a lot between the seasons – season after season he was doing a better job. In GP2, I don't remember exactly the results, but he went from 16th, to 10th, to sixth, to champion. He has the ability to improve race after race and season after season.

What can you realistically expect to achieve during the 2017 season?

It's quite impossible [to predict]! If you remember the last big change of regulations, it was a big surprise to have the Brawn on the top, with the Toyota. The team with the best organisation will be able to do a better job, it's always the case, but you can expect that someone in one team will find a clever idea.

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Monday 27 March 2017

  2. 17:02

    Follow GPUpdate on Instagram in 2017!

    F1
  3. Australian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers 16:22

    Australian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

    Sebastian Vettel opened the season with victory at the Australian Grand Prix, setting up the prospect of a title battle with…

    F1
  4. Márquez: Tyre change was 'biggest mistake' 15:36

    Márquez: Tyre change was 'biggest mistake'

    Reigning World Champion Marc Márquez labelled a tyre change pre-race as the "biggest mistake" as he slipped away from…

    MotoGP
  5. Canamasas to test again for Trident 14:32

    Canamasas to test again for Trident

    GP2 veteran Sergio Canamasas will again conduct Formula 2 testing with Trident for the second pre-season group running in…

    F2
  6. Hülkenberg 'just couldn't overtake' Alonso 14:10

    Hülkenberg 'just couldn't overtake' Alonso

    Renault's Nico Hülkenberg was left frustrated after dropping behind McLaren-Honda rival Fernando Alonso on the opening lap of…

    F1
  7. Vandoorne: McLaren race finish a milestone 12:02

    Vandoorne: McLaren race finish a milestone

    Stoffel Vandoorne says that reaching the finish of the Australian Grand Prix represented a milestone for McLaren-Honda…

    F1
  8. Sauber baffled at no Magnussen penalty 11:42

    Sauber baffled at no Magnussen penalty

    Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn blasted an "incomprehensible" decision by the stewards not to penalise Kevin Magnussen…

    F1
  9. Viñales thrilled with 'incredible' Qatar win 10:58

    Viñales thrilled with 'incredible' Qatar win

    Maverick Viñales hailed an "incredible feeling" as he claimed victory on his Yamaha debut at the season-opening Qatar Grand…

    MotoGP
  10. Formula E unveils revised Berlin track layout 10:39

    Formula E unveils revised Berlin track layout

    Formula E organisers have unveiled the revised circuit layout for this year's Berlin ePrix at Tempelhof Airport. The disused…

    FE
  11. Räikkönen rues difficult opening stint 10:24

    Räikkönen rues difficult opening stint

    Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen was left to rue a difficult opening stint to the Australian Grand Prix as he finished the first…

    F1
  12. Vettel, Hamilton relishing potential title fight 09:12

    Vettel, Hamilton relishing potential title fight

    Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton say they are relishing the prospect of a title battle against each…

    F1
  13. Video of the Day: Hamilton's hospitality tour 05:32

    Video of the Day: Hamilton's hospitality tour

    Lewis Hamilton takes you on a tour of Mercedes' hospitality unit at the Australian Grand Prix.

    F1
  14. Sunday 26 March 2017

  15. 20:48

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Losail

    MotoGP
  16. 20:47

    In full: Qatar Grand Prix race results

    MotoGP
  17. Viñales victorious in scintillating Qatar race 20:28

    Viñales victorious in scintillating Qatar race

    Maverick Viñales claimed victory on his Yamaha debut after prevailing against Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso during a thrilling…

    MotoGP
  18. 18:00

    Starting grid for the Qatar Grand Prix

    MotoGP
  19. 16:07

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday in Melbourne

    F1
  20. Clear: Australia win 'fell into our hands' 16:05

    Clear: Australia win 'fell into our hands'

    Ferrari's Head of Race Activities Jock Clear believes victory at the Australian Grand Prix "fell into our hands" after early…

    F1
  21. Giovinazzi lauds 'fantastic' F1 debut 12:26

    Giovinazzi lauds 'fantastic' F1 debut

    Sauber's Antonio Giovinazzi hailed a "fantastic" weekend as he claimed 12th place on his Formula 1 debut at the Australian Grand…

    F1
  22. Massa delighted to lead midfield charge 11:38

    Massa delighted to lead midfield charge

    Williams' Felipe Massa labelled himself as "really happy" as he led the charge in Formula 1's midfield by placing sixth at the…

    F1
  23. Sainz Jr. hails 'confidence boost' for STR 11:02

    Sainz Jr. hails 'confidence boost' for STR

    Carlos Sainz Jr. says Toro Rosso's performance at the Australian Grand Prix has acted as "confidence boost" for the team…

    F1
  24. Pérez reckons seventh place maximum 10:27

    Pérez reckons seventh place maximum

    Sergio Pérez believes he extracted the maximum from Force India's potential as he finished in seventh position at the…

    F1
  25. Wolff: Ferrari had quicker package in race 09:24

    Wolff: Ferrari had quicker package in race

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has conceded that Ferrari simply had the quicker package during the Australian Grand Prix, highlighting…

    F1
  26. Alonso: McLaren last 'in normal conditions' 09:08

    Alonso: McLaren last 'in normal conditions'

    Fernando Alonso fears that McLaren-Honda could be Formula 1's slowest team "in normal conditions", despite an encouraging…

    F1
  27. Ricciardo: Separate issues caused dramas 08:57

    Ricciardo: Separate issues caused dramas

    Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo says two separate issues on his RB13 compounded his dismal Australian Grand Prix weekend, as he…

    F1
  28. Marchionne praises Ferrari's winter push 08:36

    Marchionne praises Ferrari's winter push

    Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne has reacted to Sebastian Vettel's victory at the Australian Grand Prix with a statement…

    F1
  29. Hamilton 'ran out of grip' during first stint 08:29

    Hamilton 'ran out of grip' during first stint

    Lewis Hamilton conceded he simply "ran out of grip" during the first stint of the Australian Grand Prix, as he missed out on…

    F1
  30. Vettel 'over the moon' with Australia win 08:07

    Vettel 'over the moon' with Australia win

    Sebastian Vettel described himself as "over the moon" after he opened his and Ferrari's 2017 Formula 1 campaign with victory at…

    F1
  31. 07:39

    In full: Australian Grand Prix race results

    F1
  32. Vettel beats Hamilton to Australian GP win 07:36

    Vettel beats Hamilton to Australian GP win

    Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, after going longer on a one-stop…

    F1
  33. 05:34

    Follow the Australian Grand Prix live!

    F1
  34. Williams gets suspended fine over gearbox 05:16

    Williams gets suspended fine over gearbox

    Williams has been handed a €25,000 fine, suspended for the entirety of the season, after failing to inform the FIA of its…

    F1
  35. 05:02

    Starting grid for the Australian Grand Prix

    F1
  36. Ricciardo hit with five-place grid penalty 03:27

    Ricciardo hit with five-place grid penalty

    Daniel Ricciardo has been dealt another blow at his home event in Australia, with Red Bull changing his gearbox after he crashed…

    F1
  37. Pirelli expects one-stop Australia race 03:12

    Pirelli expects one-stop Australia race

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli is expecting a one-stop strategy to emerge as the favoured approach by drivers for the…

    F1
  38. Mercedes braced for 'big fight' with Ferrari 02:44

    Mercedes braced for 'big fight' with Ferrari

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team is braced for a "big fight" with rival Ferrari ahead of the season-opening Australian…

    F1
  39. Alonso: McLaren 'better than expected' 02:32

    Alonso: McLaren 'better than expected'

    Fernando Alonso says that McLaren-Honda's Australian Grand Prix weekend has gone "better than we'd expected" after pre-season…

    F1
  40. Video of the Day: Formula 1 2017 explained 02:01

    Video of the Day: Formula 1 2017 explained

    Ahead of the season-opener, Lewis Hamilton provides a refresher on what's new in F1 in 2017.

    F1
  41. Saturday 25 March 2017

  42. 18:28

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday at Losail

    MotoGP
  43. Viñales, Márquez back qualifying cancellation 18:27

    Viñales, Márquez back qualifying cancellation

    Yamaha's Maverick Viñales and Repsol Honda's Marc Márquez backed the call made by MotoGP officials to cancel all of Saturday's…

    MotoGP
more news