While Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen finished on the cusp of the top 10 in Australia and Bahrain, the duo experienced a torrid Chinese Grand Prix where the Dane claimed a lowly 17th with his British team-mate suffering his “worst race weekend ever” to cross the line in last position.
Returning as a fully-fledged team this year, Renault had little time to prepare following its late takeover of Lotus last December. But Abiteboul refuses to use the rushed off-season to explain his team’s poor start, calling the Shanghai performance “a disaster”.
“We can say that,” the managing director told Autosport. “Let’s not be shy, it’s not good.
“It was a bad race, a bad weekend. It’s absolutely not the sort of performance we want to demonstrate on Sundays.
“Right now we need to focus on the car and there is no excuse to find.
“OK, the best line is because we started late and it’s a car that was designed for a Mercedes engine, but that is absolutely no excuse for the lack of progress from that point onwards.
“We cannot be complacent about the fact we are just happy to be here, that we have a lot of excuses because we came late into this. No! No excuse.
“We have no excuse for what we did on the engine, and today we have no excuse for what we’re doing on the chassis. So let’s look forward.”
According to Abiteboul, part of Renault’s problems stem from its struggles to extract the most performance out of the Pirelli compounds.
“For us, a lot [of the issues] are in the region of tyres,” he added.
“We need to improve our understanding of the tyres. I’m seeing that when we don’t get any running on Fridays, it’s hurting us a lot on Sundays. We saw that in China.
“It didn’t start well on Friday [Magnussen suffered a suspension failure in FP1 and had to sit out the whole of the day’s remaining time] which prevented us from having a clear understanding of the tyre, and that’s really what caused us lots of trouble there.”
Launched in 1999, the Time 100 has been acknowledging those who make important contributions around the globe, releasing an annual list since 2004. For each person selected, special guests are asked to write a portrait feature. Here is what 1978 F1 champ’ and US racing legend Mario Andretti offered on Hamilton:
“You could tell Lewis Hamilton was special from the very start of his Formula One career. Here was someone who was given, at the age of 22, one of the best cars anyone could ever have, and a year later he had won his first world championship.
“Today he is at the highest echelon of the sport. If he were to retire tomorrow, he would still be among the very best champions who have ever lived. And I think he’s just getting started. The sky is the limit for him.
“What makes Lewis different is his attitude. He exudes confidence, but he is serene. I would have loved to race against him, because it would have been a great challenge. It doesn’t seem like anything can rattle him, and that really plays on your mind as a competitor.
“The most fascinating thing about Lewis is his life outside the sport. He’s curious: he has spent a lot of time learning about different cultures, and his own background has helped broaden our sport’s appeal. Me, I raced on six continents, and I can describe a lot of airports. But one day Lewis is at a fashion show in China, and the next he’s cuddling with tigers in Mexico. I’m not sure I could have done all that and kept focused. But he does, and he is.”
Having recently told CNN he felt like the best ambassador F1 has ever had, Hamilton took to his Instagram account to say he was “honoured” to be on the Time 100.
Fernando Alonso says that claims he has been lacking motivation in the past couple of years could not be further from the truth.
The Spaniard has endured a tough period since the end of 2014, finding himself as a mere ‘also ran’ in Formula 1 since switching his allegiance to an uncompetitive McLaren-Honda outfit in 2015 while watching his former team Ferrari ramp up its performance.
In Bahrain, Sky Sports F1 pundit Johnny Herbert publicly questioned the two-time world champion’s motivation and drive, suggesting he should call it a day and retire from the sport with immediate effect.
Herbert’s comments floated to Alonso’s ears and the Spaniard confronted the former British driver on air, saying telling him in no uncertain terms that “you were never world champion which is why you are a commentator”.
“The truth is I don’t know how on earth people can think I’m not motivated,” Alonso explained in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS.
“In 2012 I fought for the championship until the last moment. In 2013 I finished second, in 2014 I scored triple the amount of points of Kimi Raikkonen, and in 2015 I was pushing the car in Hungary to reach the pitlane.
“So you can say I’m slow, I’m old, I’m ugly, but you can’t say I’m not motivated. It makes no sense.”
Alonso also pointed to his willingness to race after his massive crash in Melbourne, and which sidelined the McLaren driver in Bahrain, as a token of his motivation.
“I had a pneumothorax, two broken ribs and I was asking the FIA to let me drive the car. And this guy says I’m not motivated? It’s absurd .”