The dark horses for the 18/19 title

After the first few rounds of the 18/19 ABB Formula E season it would be easy to say that DS Techeetah should walk this championship, I even predicted that Jean-Eric Vergne would be the Season 5 champion. After 3 races it isn’t Vergne and Techeetah leading the drivers and teams championships but instead Sam Bird and Envision Virgin Racing.

The first round of season in Ad Diriyah was a disaster for Virgin with both cars failing to score after being sent to the back of the grid following a penalty for exceeding the 250kw limit. Neither Virgin or partners Audi put on a strong performance which led to concerns about the pace of the Audi powertrain.

Marrakesh however showed a huge turnaround in performance, despite a pit-lane crash for the Virgin duo of Sam Bird and Robin Frijns, Sam Bird took pole beating Vergne to the top spot.

The race would yield more success with the team taking their first double-podium in Formula E. Bird would struggle in the race to finish 3rd but teammate Frijns would challenge winner Jerome D’Ambrosio on the final lap, this showed that Virgin and Audi still have a competitive package.

@VIRGIN FRIJNS PODIUM.jpg

Copyright: Envision Virgin Racing

Santiago would confirm Virgin’s pace with Sam Bird harassing Sebastien Buemi for the lead until the Swiss driver crashed out of the lead. Bird would then control the remainder of the race to win and take the lead of the drivers championship while Frijns would finish 5th putting Envision Virgin Racing at the top of the teams championship.

Virgin perhaps have the strongest driver pairing on the grid with Bird being the only driver to have won a race in every season of Formula E while Frijns is a highly rated driver who made a great impression in his debut season with Andretti in Season 2.

Techeetah are still believed to have the fastest package but their season has been riddle with mistakes. Penalties in Ad Diriyah ruined a certain 1-2 for Vergne and Andre Lotterer while an optimistic lunge in Marrakesh saw Vergne spin out of 2nd place.

Santiago was the scene where Techeetah took the very first 1-2 in Formula E last season but had no luck repeating that this season after more mistakes would see neither driver score any points.

Sam Bird challenge Vergne to the title last season until the final weekend but Vergne’s consistency helped him seal his first championship title. This season Vergne’s biggest strengths have disappeared, Vergne is one of the series’ best qualifiers but has failed to take pole position while his consistency which won him the title last season appears to have been left behind with the Gen1 car.

Both Virgin drivers have shown they can be consistent and both definitely have the speed, it shouldn’t be too long before we see Frijns take his maiden victory.

The performance of Techeetah and Vergne reminds me a lot of Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari and how they threw away the chance of winning the title when they had the package to do so.

As the mistakes happened it allowed for the pressure to build and put more pressure on Vettel but you can’t make up for a bad race. It’s not like you can regain the points you threw away in the previous race so you need to start the following race fresh forgetting about what happened the weekend before.

Vergne is one of the best on the grid but needs to reset if he wants to be the first double-champion in Formula E. He has the right package behind him and has a healthy relationship with teammate Lotterer as do the Virgin drivers.

Vergne has a few challengers to his crown this season, da Costa and Sims have a strong package with BMW while Mahindra have shown they also have strong pace while not forgetting about former champions Buemi and Di Grassi. Bird and Frijns must also be considered as a threat if not perhaps the bigger threat this season, they have a strong package and with a strong couple of races behind them they have the confidence too and are perhaps the dark horses of the 18/19 season.

@Virgin Bird Quali 2.jpg

Copyright: Envision Virgin Racing

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Hartley: People “didn’t want me there” at Toro Rosso

After just 25 race entries, Brendon Hartley’s Formula One career looks to be all but over after being dropped by Toro Rosso at the end of the 2018 season but it appears the writing was on the wall as early as Monaco.

Hartley, a once dropped Red Bull junior driver was given the call to race for Toro Rosso at the US GP in 2017, a remarkable turn of events considering he fell out of favour with Helmut Marko in 2010.

The remaining 4 races of 2017 were marred by reliability issues and grid penalties hampering Hartley’s on track experience with an F1 car and preventing him from showing what talent the 2 times WEC champion and Le Mans winner had.

In a blog written for the playerstribune.com titled “How I’ll Remember It” Hartley talks about the missed opportunities and talks as early as Monaco to oust him from the team.

“Bahrain was my biggest missed opportunity, and a hard one to swallow as we had a such a competitive car that weekend (which was somewhat of a surprise at the time).” Hartley said.

“I had the pace to comfortably finish well into the points, and my teammate, Pierre, had a faultless weekend, taking his best result of the year.”

“There wasn’t much between me and Pierre in qualifying. But I had contact with another car on the first lap [Sergio Perez], drawing a penalty, which removed a chance for a big points haul.”

Pierre Gasly, Hartley’s teammate would finish 4th in Bahrain marking Toro Rosso’s best result since Italy 2008. With Hartley being seen as the experienced driver despite not racing in single seaters for many years his reputation was sinking while Gasly’s was rising.

Both Toro Rosso cars would clash in China in a miscommunication error and Gasly would have to avoid a slow Harltey in qualifying in Azerbaijan, wrecking his lap time in the process although Hartley would score his first point that weekend. Spain would also prove frustrating with Hartley crashing in practice destroying his car, preventing him the chance to take part in qualifying.

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Brendon Hartley would wreck his car in the crash while also suffering a neck injury. Copyright: Motorsport Images

The pressure was quickly building for Hartley and questions about his career began in Monaco.

“The next month it was the Monaco Grand Prix — the race every driver looks forward to.” 

“But for me, it was tough, because when I look back now, what I will remember most about it is walking down to the paddock to meet with the media on the Wednesday before the weekend started, and receiving a bunch of questions about my future.”

Speculation had begun that Helmut Marko wanted to replace Hartley, McLaren junior Lando Norris, Pascal Wehrlein and Robert Kubica were all rumoured to be in the running for Hartley’s seat.

“Here I am, a handful of races into my F1 career, and I’m being asked about the end.”

“The worst part of that day, though, was finding out there was some truth to the rumours. After a few races, there were some people, it appeared, who didn’t want me there.”

“I walked back to our apartment that night looking at the walls of the Monte Carlo circuit, knowing that, if I binned it, if I made contact with those walls this weekend, my F1 career might end in a few days.” Harley added.

Hartley once again failed to score in Monaco while teammate Gasly finished an impressive 7th, Gasly’s reputation grew so much that he got the nod to drive for sister team Red Bull for 2019 following Daniel Ricciardo’s announcement that he would leave for Renault.

Hartley would endure a tough season with 2 more points finishes in Germany and the USA but wouldn’t be retained for the 2019 after Toro Rosso opted to sign ex-Red Bull and Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat and ex-Red Bull junior Alexander Albon. Harley then talks about how he found out that he wouldn’t be retained by the team.

“So, going into Abu Dhabi, I knew that no matter what happened after the race I would leave the circuit with my head held high.”

“I out-qualified my teammate and drove to 12th on Sunday night. An hour later, I was summoned to a meeting and a few minutes after that, I was no longer an F1 driver.”

Hartley’s F1 career did not go to plan but the results don’t entirely reflect the job that he did, he wasn’t the faster of the two Toro Rosso drivers but he was much closer than the points tally suggest. There are currently no plans for 2019 and with a Porsche Formula E drive unlikely due to the German manufacturer seeking experience in the sport it is up in the air what the future has in store for Brendon Hartley but it won’t be long before we see him racing.

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Does Formula E’s qualifying format need changing?

The current qualifying format sparked controversy in Santiago causing reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne labelling it “a joke” and they may as well set the grid in “reverse [championship] order”. This is of course a sarcastic remark from Vergne as he vented his frustration at the current format.

“Well I think they should do no qualifying and [use] the reverse order in the championship because clearly it’s a joke here.” Vergne said after watching the times tumble in qualifying and seeing himself fall out of super pole contention.

“I did a clean lap but I mean [there is] no way I can be in super pole with those conditions.”

“I really hope they can do something about it because it’s not fair, we work as hard as the others, that is why we are leading the championship as a manufacturer and we [have] got the worst chance for the race so it’s not fair at all.”

Most of the time gained by the succeeding qualifying groups was in the first sector which is under trees and contains the fastest corners of the circuit.

“The track was so dirty, there was leaves out there in sector one and dust everywhere” was Vergne’s remarks when talking about track conditions.

@techeetah cars

Both Techeetah’s would go fastest in their qualifying session but neither would make it into super pole. Copyright: DS Techeetah Formula E Team

Currently qualifying is split into 4 groups based on championship order. The first group on track are the top 5 in the championship but this is deemed a disadvantage as the track is usually dusty and not rubbered in meaning lap times should be slower.

Techeetah drivers Vergne and Lotterer topped their session but neither would qualify in the top ten due to the track improving as the other groups completed their laps.

The rule is in place due to the nature of street circuits making it easy for drivers to hold each other up, with this rule it means drivers can complete laps cleanly and with less cars on track there is less chance of drivers ruining each others laps.

The current format was introduced this season following complaints about last seasons format. Once again there were 4 qualifying groups but rather than the groups being decided by championship order it was a literal lottery, names would randomly picked for each group which wasn’t exactly a great idea in a competitive sport.

I personally agree with Vergne on qualifying, it penalises the fastest drivers way too much and makes the result of qualifying far less pure. I do understand why this format is in place and it is an improvement on the previous system and it does mix up the grid promoting better racing but it is just not pure enough.

My suggestion would be the groups would be decided by practice times, the slowest group would go out first while the fastest would go out last. This way it isn’t decided by the previous race and encourages teams to attack in practice too making the practice session more exciting.

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Honda had a big influence on Ricciardo leaving Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo shocked the Formula One world when he announced that he would leave Red Bull after 5 years to move to Renault.

Ricciardo endured a difficult season in 2018 with 8 retirements and plenty on grid penalties. Wins came in the early part of the season in China and Monaco but the season took it’s toll on Ricciardo and the Aussie decided to make a fresh start.

In an interview with RACER, Ricciardo talked about how he came to his decision to leave Red Bull.

“There were a few things. What I was going back and forth with was, originally they wanted to do a two-year deal, and because I’d already questioned if I wanted to do another year there, doing two years… I was a bit concerned with me personally; with my motivation to still be there.”

Honda also seems to have had a big bearing on Ricciardo’s decision. Since Honda returned to the sport in 2015 they have been plagued with reliability issues and a lack of grunt. The information Ricciardo had available to him about Honda clearly didn’t give him enough confidence to stay at Red Bull.

“I was just thinking if Honda doesn’t work, next year’s a year of frustration, then am I really going to want to do another year on top of that, or am I just going to get a bit over it?”

“initially the two-year thing was something that concerned me, so then it was like, ‘OK, let’s try and push for a one year’ and if the Honda works, great, we’ll extend it and whatever. Easy.”

“But then one year felt risky. It felt like I wasn’t really achieving anything by signing a one-year. I don’t know, it just didn’t really add up. So what I thought I wanted, I didn’t really want in the end. So there wasn’t really anything for me.”

This left Ricciardo with two options; McLaren and Renault. Both would appear to be a step back in performance with the former struggling to score points in 2018 but Ricciardo opted to sign with Renault in a 2-year contract.

“Then Renault we were kind of talking to a bit, and eventually it just kind of clicked for me and I was like ‘Alright, so it’s a works team, progress they’ve made is good, it’s two years and a solid deal’.”

Copyright: Renault Sport F1 Team

Ricciardo will be teammates with Nico Hulkenberg for 2019, the German hasn’t yet scored a podium but Ricciardo is expecting Nico to be a challenge.

“I know he’s super-motivated because he has one statistic that not many people want, and that’s the podium-less one.”

“Everyone knows he’s good enough for it. So he’s going to be motivated, me coming to the team is going to add motivation for him, but I think it can boost us and fast-track the progress.”

Time will tell if Ricciardo made the right decision, it could turn out to be a masterstroke like Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes or a disaster like Fernando Alonso and McLaren.

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From Formula One rejects to Formula E stars

Formula One is regarded as the pinnacle of motor sport, it fields the worlds best drivers and teams but with competition so high many don’t survive and find themselves out of the sport. Some of those who fail to make a career in Formula One succeed out of it, some were in the sport too soon, some weren’t in the right environment and others were just plain unlucky. We are taking a look at Formula E’s four champions all of which previously raced in Formula One.

Nelson Piquet Jr:

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Copyright: Panasonic Jaguar Racing 

Being the son of a three-time Formula One champion comes with high expectations and is almost impossible to live up to; something that Nelson Piquet Jr found in his brief period in Formula One.

The timing for Piquet joining F1 was far from ideal, he joined a Renault team on the decline in 2008 and was teammates with one of the fiercest competitors on the grid Fernando Alonso. His rookie season was a disaster, a podium in Germany was a highlight but Piquet struggled for consistency and only scored points four other times while teammate Alonso had a late season surge scoring two wins in the last four races.

2008 German Grand Prix - Sunday Race

Copyright: Motorsport Images

Piquet’s second season was even worse, in ten races Piquet scored 0 points and reached the end of Renault’s patience, he was replaced by Romain Grosjean for the rest of the season. As Piquet departed he accused of foul play at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008, his claim was that Renault management asked him to crash deliberately bringing out a safety car to aid teammate Alonso in winning the race. A controversy which would forever be associated with Piquet, he would then switch NASCAR before the launch of Formula E.

A much more mature Piquet would find himself much more at home in Formula E, he would score his first podium in Punta del Este and his first win at Long Beach the venue that his father won his first F1 race. Piquet had a consistent season failing to score in just one race and became Formula E’s first champion. Piquet would unfortunately suffer in an uncompetitive NIO for two seasons before making the switch to Jaguar which is making progress towards the front of the pack.

Sebastien Buemi:

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Copyright: Nissan NISMO

Formula E’s most successful driver Sebastien Buemi is one of many drivers in motor sport that came from the Red Bull Junior programme. Despite a lacklustre GP2 campaign in 2008 Buemi got the nod to drive for Toro Rosso for 2009 and impressed on debut scoring points in his first race.

Buemi was rated highly and fared well against his teammate Jaime Alguersuari but after 3 seasons with the team he would find himself out of a drive. Red Bull had a very competitive lineup with Sebastien Vettel and saw no signs of changing it, the nature of the junior programme  meant that if you weren’t moving up you’re moving out, both Buemi and Alguersuari made way for Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Buemi remained part of the Red Bull family through sponsorship and a reserve role for the team, Buemi would switch to WEC where he would race for Toyota in LMP1. Buemi would along with his WEC duties race for Renault e.dams in Formula E and immediately became one of the series front-runners.

Buemi would narrowly miss out on the title in season one before winning in season 2, Buemi mastered the art of winning in Formula E and winning 5 of the first 6 races in season looked good for the Swiss driver to take a second title. 2 disqualifications and a conflict with WEC forcing Buemi to miss the double-header in New York saw Buemi lose out to Lucas Di Grassi for the title. A tough final season for Renault saw Buemi fail to win a race for the first time in Formula E before their takeover of Nissan for Season 5. Season 5 hasn’t yet gone to plan but there is potential in the Nissan and Formula E’s most successful driver will certainly be back to winning ways soon.

Lucas Di Grassi:

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Copyright: Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler 

Lucas Di Grassi perhaps had the toughest Formula One career out of the four champions, for the 2010 there were three new teams; Lotus, Virgin and HRT. Di Grassi partnered Timo Glock at Virgin Racing but the season soon became a struggle, the car did not have a fuel tank large enough to finish races at the beginning part of the season. The cars pace was also an issue and with the other two new teams and they were left to only squabble with themselves. After just one season Di Grassi found himself without a drive and would become Pirelli’s test driver for 2011 before switching to WEC with Audi in 2012.

2012 would also be the year that Di Grassi began his Formula E journey, he became an integral part of developing the sport before it’s first season and was the series test driver. He would sign for the Audi partnered ABT team for season one and would win the inaugural race in Beijing, Di Grassi would score multiple podiums thereafter but fall short of the championship.

@MSI Di Grasii Beijing.jpg

Copyright: Motorsport Images

Di Grassi would have a stronger season 2 but wouldn’t be able to beat Sebastien Buemi despite a controversial crash ending both of their races in London. Season three would be Di Grassi’s time, Buemi was quick but Di Grassi was again consistent and capitalised on Buemi’s disqualifications and absence from New York and Di Grassi would become Formula E’s third champion in as many years.

Audi took full ownership of the ABT team for Season 4 and had promise of a fast powertrain, the German manufacturer was snagged by poor reliability and finishing races became a struggle ending all hopes of Di Grassi winning the title for a second time. seven podiums in the last seven races would see Di Grassi rocket up to 2nd in the championship and hopeful of a strong season five. So far the start to the season hasn’t been strong for Audi with zero podiums so far but Audi partners Virgin scored a double podium in Marrakesh which will give Di Grassi hope.

Jean-Eric Vergne:

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Copyright: DS Techeetah Formula E Team

Reigning Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne was hallmarked for success from his first race when he took pole position on his debut. This was shortly after his departure from Formula One where the brutal nature of the Red Bull junior programme saw him lose out to Max Verstappen for a 2015 seat. Vergne had compared well to Daniel Ricciardo in 2012 and 2013 but after the Aussie got the nod at Red Bull Racing Vergne’s time was limited. Without a seat in Formula One Vergne made the switch to Formula E with Andretti who had a vacancy following Franck Montagny’s ban following a failed drugs test.

Vergne would score a further two poles and two podiums in season one before moving to DS Virgin Racing in season two. Season two wasn’t as strong for Vergne who struggled compared to teammate Sam Bird with a podium finish in his home race at Paris being his highlight.

Techeetah would become Vergne’s third team in as many seasons but would be the perfect environment for Vergne to perform. Regular battles for the podium including five top three positions would be Vergne’s strongest season so far and would take his maiden win in the final race in Montreal.

Continuous top five finishes in season five including four wins would make Vergne champion with Techeetah and he became the man to beat in Formula E. Techeetah have now become a factory outfit with DS partnering them and are the favourites for the title this season.

Despite careers failing to materialise in Formula One these four drivers have had incredible success in Formula E and the sport is better for it. Formula E’s driver lineup is getting stronger and stronger by the season attracting plenty ex-Formula One drivers as well as drivers from junior categories electing to pursue a career in the eclectic series all of which can be future stars.

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What to expect for the rest of Season 5

After 2 rounds of the FIA ABB Formula E championship we are now starting to build a picture of how the season may end up, what is working, who is performing and who has plenty of work to do. We take a look at all of this and make some wild predictions for the season to come.

Attack Mode to decide victory:

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Copyright: ABB Formula E

Formula E’s latest innovation in racing “Attack Mode” gives drivers 25kw extra power for a total of 8 minutes during a race. This extra power gives the driver using it and advantage over the field in pace at the cost of efficiency, drivers must run off-line on the designated activation zone to activate it. Running off line costs time initially but the time you gain with the extra power makes this worth while.

We have seen some get this wrong however, Jose Maria Lopez failed to cross both lines of the activation zone twice and lost position to Jerome D’Ambrosio in Ad Diriyah. Marrakesh was a stronger showcase for it’s potential with the extra boost changing the dynamics of the race, it was a big aid for Lucas Di Grassi who made his move on both Envision Virgin Racing cars but later lost those positions when they used their Attack Mode. Both races had late safety cars which reduced the variability of Attack Mode. We will surely see a scenario where the race leader has used all available Attack Modes with their challenger having it active. We have yet to see a race decided by Attack Mode but I’m sure we will soon.

DS Techeetah and BMW i Andretti to duel it out:

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Copyright: DS Techeetah Formula E Team

The two stand out teams so far this season have been DS Techeetah and BMW i Andretti, Antonio Felix da Costa took victory in Ad Diriyah following a very strong pre-season testing while both Techeetah cars were penalised for power overuse but still managed 2nd and 5th.

Marrakesh looked all set to be a 1-2 for BMW but both of their drivers pushed too hard causing da Costa to crash out of the race and Alexander Sims to drop down to 4th. Both BMW cars were quick and once in the lead built a steady buffer over the rest of the field but were unchallenged by Techeetah who fell victim of driver errors. Jean-Eric Vergne tangled with Sam Bird into the first turn spinning his car to the back of the pack while Andre Lotterer made an error on his hot lap in qualifying putting him out of position. Despite this both cars finished in the top 6 and are leading the teams championship.

Expect a season long championship between these two teams and with da Costa and Vergne equal on points it’s all to play for the rest of the season.

Audi to make a late charge:

@audi di grassi

Copyright: Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler 

Despite the disastrous start to the season Audi had in Ad Diriyah; Marrakesh was a more convincing round. Sam Bird in the Audi powered Envision Virgin qualified on pole position and led for the first part of the race, teammate Frijns was also at the front while Lucas Di Grassi was clawing his way through the pack despite damage after making contact with Pascal Wehrlein.

This time last season Audi were in a pickle, they had only scored a couple of points and their power train was unreliable but a late season surge took them to the top and won the teams title. Audi have a good foundation but with the power train homologated for the rest of the season they will need to extract the most out of what they have and fix their qualifying performances with the factory team.

A variety of winners:

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Copyright: Mahindra Racing

We have had two winners from as many races and with the field as competitive as it is expect many more to take the top step. Jerome D’Ambrosio is one of the sports most underrated drivers and it was no surprise to see him take the top spot but good fortune still had to come his way. Neither Techeetah driver has won yet and it wouldn’t be outrageous to say these two should definitely have at least one by the end of the season. Alexander Sims looked competitive in Marrakesh and with the BMW competitive he should have plenty of opportunity to take his first win along with Formula E veterans Buemi, Di Grassi and Bird who all have competitive cars underneath them.

Vergne to become the first double champion:

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Copyright: DS Techeetah Formula E Team

The first two rounds haven’t gone smoothly for the reigning champion but Vergne currently sits 3rd in the standings. He has arguably the most competive car on the grid right now so if he gets a clean weekend away he should easily finish on the podium. Consistency is what won Vergne the title last year and with Vergne getting stronger and stronger each season I predict we will see him make Formula E history and take a second Formula E crown.

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The teams threatening to challenge the “Big Three”

Since the turbo-hybrid era only three teams have taken to the top step of the podium, the 2017 rule changes created a bigger divide between the top three and the “Class B” but two teams look set to change that in the next two years.

Mercedes’ domination is coming to it’s conclusion with Ferrari making serious challenges to the title for the past 2 years while Red Bull have been able to mix it with these two teams and take the odd win and regular podiums.

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The financial divide between “Class B” and the top three has been the biggest factor for the performance deficit but even McLaren who have the closest budget to these teams have squandered with structural changes needing to be put in place to ensure they can mount a challenge in the long-term.

There are two teams that have the capacity to close the gap in the short-term; Racing Point and Renault. Since it’s purchase of Lotus at the end of 2015 Renault have been slowly rebuilding the Enstone team that at the end of it’s life with Lotus had seen many key personnel leave. Their first season as a factory team went under the radar with only 3 points finishes in the season with a relatively inexperienced driver line-up of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer taking them to 9th in the constructors.

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By the end of 2016 Magnussen would leave Renault in favour of Haas. Copyright: Formula One

Renault had outlined their targets for the outfit knowing that it would take a long time to rebuild the team back it’s championship ways. 2017 was a much stronger season with Nico Hulkenberg scoring the bulk of the points with a best finish of 6th while Jolyon Palmer would struggle scoring points just the once at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Renault would finish 6th in the constructors after replacing Palmer with Carlos Sainz in what was a natural progression for the factory team, with one of the strongest driver line-ups on the grid there were high expectations for Renault. Ultimately they failed to deliver, they managed to finish 4th and best of the rest but it’s engine deficit hampered them and with Honda catching them up Renault were on the verge of having the slowest engine on the grid.

Since the beginning of the turbo-hybrid era Renault have struggled to get the most out of their power unit, poor reliability with the MGU-K and a sheer lack of grunt led to their customer Red Bull make public criticisms of the French Marque and creating a tense relationship for the former championship partners.

Daniel Ricciardo shocked the F1 world when he announced that he would leave Red Bull and switch to Renault for 2019, it was massive news for the team as they would now have a race winner in their ranks. It also showed the confidence Ricciardo had in the team especially after knowing about the progress Honda were making.

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Will we be seeing Ricciardo celebrating with a “Shoey” in 2019? Copyright: Formula One

Now Renault are optimistic about their performance for 2019, Renault aren’t the ones to usually big themselves up so could this be a good sign of what is to come in 2019?

“The gains that we will be making on the engine are much bigger than we have ever done in a winter – much bigger – and the gains that we are currently doing in the wind tunnel are much bigger than we have ever done.” Said Cyril Abiteboul

“But, we have to be careful on the wind-tunnel side, the aero side, as there is a change of regulation. You know that when it happens there is a big reset: you lose [downforce] and you quickly catch up.”

“So, it is difficult to make a distinction between what is coming from the regulations and what is coming from the effect of the restructure [at Renault].”

Renault need a big jump forward in 2019 in both engine and chassis but if their progress meets their expectations then expect to see them on the coat tails of the top three this season.

The other team that is set to challenge the top three in the near future is Racing Point (name change pending), under it’s previous ownership the team lacked significant funding to challenge the top three but despite that they were able to score podiums and for two years in a row (2016 & 2017) finish 4th in the constructor’s championship.

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Despite points being scrapped prior the to the Belgian GP Racing Point Force India managed to finish 6th in the constructor’s championship in 2018. Copyright: Racing Point Force India F1 Team

The team is now owned by a consortium led by Billionaire Lawrence Stroll who has clear plans for the team.

“The plan is number one – ‘Nothing is broke here so you don’t need to fix it’. It already has great leadership and management in the team. They have been doing this for a long time and doing a great job. So it’s about supporting them. Number two – it’s about putting financial stability in place.”

The “financial stability” Stroll adds is doing more than keeping the team afloat, the team is looking to build a new factory, higher more staff and give a bigger budget for the team to operate on. Andy Green the teams technical director explains the impact that it’s funding has.

“It means we can plan with confidence, rather than thinking if we do that and the money doesn’t turn up, we’re compromised,”

“we can put parts on the car when they make the car go quicker, which strategically is a big change for us, instead of accumulating a load of parts and getting a big update on the car, waiting another couple of months and another one, we can now think about, if that part makes the car quicker, let’s put it on now.”

Lance Stroll also has high ambitions for the teams and wasn’t shy in laying out his targets for the next few years.

“Short term, we want to stay fighting where we are, Medium term, we want to try and fight for third, instead of fourth. Long term, when all the rules, change, hopefully we will be one of the greatest teams in the paddock.”

Expect Renault to be challenging for podiums in 2019 and consolidating it’s 4th place in the constructor’s championship while Racing Point should challenge as the leaders of the smaller “Class B” championship with a view of joining Renault in 2020. The rule shake-up for 2021 however gives both an opportunity for either one of those teams to fully establish themselves as a championship contending team.

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