R enault two goals before the season: 4th place and getting closer to the top. Where are you now?
Abiteboul: We have achieved almost all of our goals so far. Only one thing is not. We haven't gotten any closer to the top. That is an important element. We have to check why this hasn't worked out yet. Two things: First, our team is still in the development phase. That should help us finish fourth this year. You can also see it in our constancy. We make very few mistakes. It helps that our opponents have greater fluctuations than we do. On the other hand, we are unable to develop fast enough to close the gap forwards. The gap has remained the same since the start of the season. That reflects the state of Formula 1. You need certain factors to be successful. Investments, money, people, resources. We are not yet where we want to be. 2018 is the last year of our growth phase. We're still adding people, joining forces with new partners, restructuring the management structure and increasing resources. At the moment we haven't reached the size to catch up.
Where do you need to catch up more? In the car or in the engine?
Abiteboul: Of course, in the car. The engine is good enough to put a car on pole position, claim victories and fight for the world title. Red Bull proves it. Without their problems they would now be fully in the title fight. And only two of their problems were with the engine. Here we are on schedule with our race to catch up. I am convinced that we will overtake Mercedes and Ferrari in 2019, maybe even overtake them. I am satisfied with the increase in performance. Not yet with reliability. On the chassis side, we're still lagging behind in terms of aerodynamics.
Actually, your car doesn't look that much different than a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull. Where is the second lost?
Abiteboul: If I knew that, we'd be a second faster. It's all about details. These regulations reward constant improvement in detail. Right down to the surfaces of the car. And then there are a lot of things under the disguise that make the difference. Also very complex suspension systems. Mechanical grip and tire management are areas where we are lagging behind. We can't bring changes to the car quickly enough. The way from the concept to the wind tunnel model and to the race track takes too long. We worked hard to expand the design office. Now it's the turn of the production capacity.
Red Bull and Renault part ways after the season. Where do you see the positive and negative points?
Abiteboul: It's a decision that we were so expecting. After parting with Toro Rosso in the first step, we had to expect that Red Bull would follow suit in order to start a joint project with Honda. We still have McLaren for three years. I see positively that the separation is a clear signal to everyone in the team that we now have to fix it ourselves. Red Bull showed us that you can win races with our engine if you build a good chassis. It's a challenge for the Enstone team. The marriage to Red Bull was demanding and sometimes very stressful for us. On the negative side, Red Bull set a fantastic benchmark for us. The platform gave us the opportunity to compare our engine with the others. Unfortunately we have not yet succeeded in winning a constructors' championship with this engine.
How great is the desire to show Red Bull that it was the wrong decision?
Abiteboul: It would be wrong to wish for something that we cannot bring back. Red Bull had reasons for making this decision and we have to accept that. For them, it's better to work with Toro Rosso to build something around Honda that is equivalent to factory status. We couldn't offer them that anymore. With us, Red Bull would only have been a customer. We will concentrate on ourselves when integrating the engine into the chassis.
How far is Renault behind Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of performance?
Abiteboul: It's hard to put into numbers because everyone has different numbers. We think we're five to ten kilowatts behind in the raceFerrari and Mercedes and between 20 and 30 kilowatts ahead of Honda. It's a bit more difficult to quantify in qualifying. The chassis plays too big a role here, and the comparison with Red Bull is unfair because they lag behind us in fuel development.
Are you in favor of freezing engine development if you do Can close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari?
Abiteboul: We see an absolute necessity in a freeze of development from a certain point in time. Better than making the same mistake with a completely new engine in 2021 as in 2014. We can't do that to the fans. We are now in the fortunate position that three engine manufacturers and nine teams are moving in a small window in terms of the engine. That is why we think it is wrong to change the rules again. It would be best to keep the current rules and modify them slightly so that the drivers can drive their races freely without any restrictions. We can increase the flow rate and the RPM to improve the sound. I don't understand why we need a new engine. It costs each manufacturer at least 50 million euros.
Are you also against a budget cap?
Abiteboul: Enstone has in the The past has shown that victorious racing cars can be built in this factory. We will employ 700 people there at the end of the year and we have a good budget thanks to our company and good sponsors. Still, we're not able to fight for the title. Is this healthy? I do not think so. I don't think we're doing stupid and should therefore at least be able to fight for podium places. But that's not the case either. Something is no longer right with this sport. So something has to be done. Personally, I support more equality through adjustments to the regulations. So more standardization and homologation to avoid the need to spend senseless sums of money on things that are for the viewerare not relevant. If that doesn't work, it should also put a budget cap in place, if you like. But that requires good regulations to ensure compliance with the budget.
Would you have to disarm with a cap of 150 million dollars?
Abiteboul : A little. We are just slightly above, but still massively below what the top three teams are spending.
What does Daniel Ricciardo's signature mean for Renault?
Abiteboul: His commitment proves our will to accelerate the process of catching up with the top teams. It's also a recognition of the work we've done over the past two and a half years. Daniel's talent and charisma are a huge bonus for the team. We have to repay his trust in us by providing him with the best possible car.