Renault Admits It Still Doesn’t Feel Safe from Honda

Renault F1 Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul has admitted that the French manufacturer doesn’t feel safe from Honda despite the rival’s pre-season setbacks.

Jolyon Palmer (GBR) Renault Sport F1 Team RS17. Formula One Testing, Day 3, Thursday 9th March 2017. Barcelona, Spain.
Jolyon Palmer (GBR) Renault Sport F1 Team RS17.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Thursday 9th March 2017. Barcelona, Spain.

Although Honda’s pre-season troubles have been the center of attention throughout the Barcelona testing and beyond, the team still has every chance in the book to turn it around and come back conquering. Their competition is very aware of this – especially Renault. Renault’s Formula One Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul recently commented on the state of things between McLaren and Honda, saying that despite the damage done, a comeback could happen sooner rather than later:

“Shit can always happen. I feel extremely sympathetic of what Honda is going through, including in their relationship with McLaren. It reminds me of something that I myself have experienced.

I think McLaren needs to stay steady, and Honda needs to remain focused. They have to go through this, and I am sure they have the financial resources and the talent to go through that.

I am not feeling safe at all, even if I watch Honda, frankly.” – Cyril Abiteboul

Renault F11

Abiteboul continued on to say that he believes the extent of the issues facing Honda are in part due to the Japanese manufacturer’s decision to support only one team. He advises that supplying more teams would grant Honda a greater pool to pull data from, and zero-in on the issue across multiple engines rather than just one:

“It is a risk analysis, but it is also exploring all the potential failures that could arise – and can always happen based on all the information that we have available.

[On Renault’s engine supplying] Having three teams, it is only helping. Logistically it is an extra challenge, because when you have difficulty and you need to control the pool of parts, you need to do that for three teams.

But, I think it would have been better for Honda. It would accelerate Honda’s resolution of the current issues, if they had other customers. But that is up to McLaren and Honda to sort it out.” – Cyril Abiteboul

Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.

How Honda and McLaren manage to resolve their issues is yet to be seen, but with the opening race in Melbourne this weekend, we’ll know soon enough how critical the issue is, and whether the team will have to start taking grid penalties by the Spanish grand prix given that each car is only allowed four power-unit changes before penalties start to be applied. It could mean that at half-way point this season, McLaren-Honda could have found a good solution, but will have to fight from the back due to grid penalties. In a way, this scenario could vastly improve Fernando Alonso’s and Stoffel Vandoorne’s stock if they are made to climb the order at each race.