Renault surprising mid-field; A home for Alonso in 2018?

I don’t think I will write about McLaren’s better testing or the woes they’ve shared this season or the fact that Honda is scratching its head, I’ve covered that a lot lately. What did catch my eye this morning was the trajectory and development progress that McLaren should have been having over the last three years as manifest in a resurgent Renault in 2017.

No doubt their power unit is down on power too and one need only ask their customer, Red Bull, if that’s the case and you’ll get a resounding “yes” from them. Regardless, Renault have quietly come from the back of grid—when they had just purchased Lotus which was a bespoke chassis designed for a Mercedes engine—to be fighting amongst the mid-field teams.

This is the trajectory of progress you would have assumed McLaren Honda would already have achieved but haven’t…clearly. It’s also the reason that I maintain any move away from McLaren by Fernando Alonso will include Renault as an option. They will rise again and they know how to win races and titles. Alonso did it twice with them.

Renault have quietly surged forward even with a power deficit and it has caught the attention of those around them, namely Force India’s Bob Fernley.

“Renault have done a fantastic job over the winter, much better than I thought they would do, but we had identified that as a key issue.

“Going into testing, I felt we would be in a four-car battle with Williams, Toro Rosso and McLaren.

“Clearly McLaren didn’t make it but Renault have stepped into where McLaren would be and I think it’s going to be like that for the whole season.

“From what you can see at the moment it looks quite exciting.

“You’ve got two teams fighting at the front and four that are going to be battling for fourth place – obviously Red Bull are in the middle somewhere.”

Red Bull may be in no man’s land but their superior aerodynamics coupled with a Renault power unit have them third behind Ferrari and Mercedes. Not bad and while it is not where Red Bull want to be, it does show what’s possible for Renault if they had all of their ducks in a row.

Renault’s top-10 qualifying from Nico Hulkenberg in Bahrain shows a terrific short-run pace or qualifying pace which Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz finds intriguing.

“It looks like Renault on short runs have something extra,” Sainz said.

“There’s something there, maybe on the aerodynamics or in the short run on the tyre or something that we don’t have over one lap.

“On the long run, it looks like we look a bit similar.

“We are particularly good on tyres this year, surprisingly for us, in China and in Australia we were very kind on tyres, so it might be something to do with that.

“But Renault definitely have taken a huge step forward on the car side. We can see it on the data.”

I said two years ago that should Renault acquire Lotus, which they did, you would be unwise to discount them or continue to see them as back markers. This is a team topped off with real racers and brilliantly smart people and now large resources. They’re not a team to be trifled with and in time, they may well be fighting for podiums but they’ll need the entire combination in place and if I were Cyril Abiteboul, I’d think seriously about signing Fernando Alonso again.

Unfortunately for McLaren, this is what they should have been doing all along. Advancing, progressing. 

Hat Tip: Autosport