Renault have reacted to a poor start to the 2019 Formula One season by announcing several high-profile changes to their senior structure, including the addition on a former Ferrari and Mercedes specialist.
The French manufacturer has endured a torrid time this season and has yet to see both drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg complete a race together.
Renault have suffered five retirements already to their works team drivers as well as the two engine-related retirements customer team McLaren have had.
Renault’s F1 team are under pressure for those above to deliver given the huge financial investment made in the team, and Ricciardo, in their bid to close the gap on the top three after being ‘best of the rest’ last year.
As part of that Christophe Mary, who was a senior figure at Ferrari’s most dominant era between 1994 and 2007 and then in a similar role at Mercedes for four years after that.
He will join Renault in August as director of engineering.
The change comes after team principal Cyril Abiteboul admitted that Renault’s results had fallen “short of expectations”.
F1 heads to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend where traditionally a number of teams make big upgrades which shape the rest of the season.
“The start of the European segment of the 2019 Formula 1 season is an opportunity for us to reset,” said Abiteboul. “Overall, it’s been a tough start to the year and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix capped off a run of results that fell short of our expectations.
“We know we are capable of much more and we need to target clean weekends and races to make the most of our potential.
“To do so, we have work to do on all sides of our operation; chassis and engine on and off track, and work with the drivers to allow them to reach their respective capacities. We are motivated as ever to strive for more and we aim for a full recovery in competitiveness in Spain.
“We know that the midfield is tight, but this also creates opportunities. We’ve seen that fortunes can change in an instant so we go to Barcelona hungry to get our season campaign going.”
“The fine has been the biggest that the category has ever put on any race team, so that speaks volumes of what went on,” seven-time Bathurst winner Lowndes told reporters ahead of this weekend’s Vodafone Gold Coast 600.
“For me, I don’t think it was in the spirit of the rules and in the spirit of how the race was.
“Everyone wants to see a hard, fast race towards the end, and we didn’t get to see that.
“People will remember that Bathurst for what it was now, not for the win. That’s the downside of it.
“Bathurst is about the Peter Brock Trophy, and having a hard, fast race to the finish.
“Scotty had one of the fastest cars there all weekend, and he stood on the top step.
“But in the spirit of the race, it’s not what I wanted to see.”
The #888 loomed as a contender to win the race before the team made a decisive call with 10 laps remaining to bring Whincup in for a splash-and-dash.
On full fuel and old tyres, Whincup — who emerged from the stop in fourth position — failed to clear James Courtney and brought the #888 home in fourth.
The sister car of Shane van Gisbergen/Garth Tander was just 0.7s behind the #17 at the chequered flag despite a number of problems on the day, including a loose door and double-stacking.
Whincup refused to buy into the sportsmanship debate, yet pleaded for a fair outcome so competitors and fans can enjoy an event with clarity over the result.
Interview that sparked probe
However, the seven-time series champion remained coy over whether team orders should be stamped out full stop, with drivers — Whincup included, in New Zealand last year — playing the team game and helping their stablemates gain valuable points.
“We need to protect the racing and the competition to make sure that whoever pays 100 bucks to get in on the weekend actually see a fair dinkum battle between everyone,” Whincup said.
“We need to make sure that the teams aren’t influencing that.
“But for a teammate to help out another teammate to get a few more points for a championship, that’s up for debate.
“I’m not sure what direction we should head in there.”
Prior to Sunday’s news, McLaughlin revealed to The Loud Pedal podcast that Coulthard was “struggling” after copping a tirade of online abuse following the drama, and pointed the finger at media coverage and fans for blowing the drama out of proportion.
However, McLaughlin also admitted that the shroud over his and Premat’s great day has hindered their celebrations, regardless of the charge against their team.
“We had the fastest car all weekend, we broke the lap record multiple times, we started from pole,” the championship leader said.
“We did our best job when we could, we lived for the now on the fuel saving strategy and then at the end we got a fair crack with [van Gisbergen] after the Safety Car restart.
“We deserved to win that race. I believe we won it fair and square, it just sucks we have to deal with all this stuff and what probably should be the greatest week of my life.
“I’m not going to lie, it has been a bit sad and it could have been a lot better for us to enjoy it.
“I think from my point of view and Alex’s point of view, we have enjoyed it as a pairing.
“But it has been a bit noisy and frustrating not to fully enjoy it.”
Many believe Quartararo can be Marquez’s greatest challenger for the crown for years to come — and Marquez has responded in kind, showing great respect for his junior rival at every turn.
Quartararo has come from the heavens — in four seasons across Moto3 and Moto2 between 2015 and 2018, he managed just one win, and a best season finish of 10th twice.
While stung by the narrow defeats to Marquez in Misano, Buriram and Motegi, Quartararo knows he is close to a maiden MotoGP win — and revealed he has doubled the points tally outlined by his Petronas Yamaha SRT squad at the beginning of the season.
In finishing second on Sunday, Quartararo not only secured the Rookie of the Year title, but is now just 13 points off P3 in the standings.
Through 16 races, he has scored 163 points — the team initially thought he wouldn’t even crack the triple-figure mark.
“In Malaysia test we set a goal, was to score between 50 and 90 points, and be rookie [of the year],” he said.
“[The points tally] is much higher than what I expected. I’m really happy for the team because it’s our first year … my first year in MotoGP, but also the first year for the team.”
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR !!! Merci beaucoup a toute mon équipe, Yamaha, ma famille et mes amis ! P2 à Motegi et sixième podium de l’année 🤘🏼❤️ / ROOKIE OF THE YEAR !!! Thanks to my team,Yamaha, my family and my friends ! P2 and 6th podium of the year 🤘🏼❤️ pic.twitter.com/koC9kB3HNk
The Misano result in September saw Quartararo lead most of the race, only to see a ruthless Marquez waltz past for the win.
It was even closer between the duo in Thailand as Quartararo made a final-corner, final-lap pass — only for Marquez to defy the block pass attempt and grab the win.
In Japan, it was much more secure for the world champion, but Quartararo — despite admitting Marquez was “faster” — took the time to adapt to the race around him, which also saw the youngster fend off Andrea Dovizioso’s charging Ducati for P2.
Four poles, six podiums, no win — yet — but the rookie is quickly learning how to manage races, even if he isn’t the best rider on the day.
“Marc’s pace was faster than us this weekend, but I analysed some lines [for] what we missed, and I think for saving the tyres it helped me a lot,” he said, having topped Friday practice.
“Like corner one, during the qualifying, practice, I was carrying much more speed, and in the first corner I was going wide.
“I was doing the same line as [Marquez in the race] and I think [this] helped us quite a lot to save the tyre.
“I wasn’t close enough to see exactly what we missed, but it’s true that acceleration, also with used tyre, we struggle a lot, so that’s an important point to improve.
“Again a race that we learned to manage the tyre, even if at the end we struggled, we managed to get good lap times in another way, and I think that’s something that we learned mainly here.”
A late charge to sixth in the Japanese Grand Prix has Daniel Ricciardo confident of a late-season push with Renault as he looks to maintain a top 10 season finish.
Ricciardo surged from 16th following a difficult qualifying in Suzuka, with the Australian fighting through the field twice to register just his third top six finish this season.
Considering the tightness of the midfield battle, it was a vital result for Ricciardo — just 11 points separate Ricciardo in ninth to Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen in 14th in the standings ahead of this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.
The topsy-turvy form of Renault has left the team in an uncomfortable position, with McLaren now 34 points ahead in fourth in the constructors’ standings, with Toro Rosso 18 points behind.
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Regardless, Ricciardo — who leads Hulkenberg in qualifying and race head-to-heads — acknowledged that the team needs to keep spirits high ahead of a possible 2020 rebound, with Esteban Ocon joining the team.
“We get there [at the front] and then we drop, kind of the heads drop a bit, and we’re trying to get back up,” Ricciardo said.
“For everyone’s sake we need to try to keep some positivity before the year is out.
“I think [Hulkenberg] been in [Lance] Stroll’s DRS for quite a few laps, so I came on the radio … ‘guys if he can’t pass, release me,’ I said, ‘I’m sure I can get them’,” he said.
“I think after two laps they released me, and then I reassured them, ‘Guys I’m going to get them, trust me we’ve made the right decision,’ and obviously we did. I thanked them after, and I think clearly in the end it was the right call.
“I really believed I obviously had the pace and the tyre to do it, so that’s why I had a lot of confidence that once being released, I could get the guys in front.”