Q&A With Cyril Abiteboul Renault Sport Racing Managing Director
Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul ensures all aspects of Renault Sport Racing are structured, resourced and working to their optimum to deliver on their performance potential. Additionally, he sets the commercial, marketing and communication targets to ensure Groupe Renault takes full advantage of its Formula 1 activities.
Cyril knows the Anglo-French team and Renault inside out. After graduating from the Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble, he joined Renault in 2001 and worked in various positions at the company HQ in France and also at the F1 team in Enstone. His commercial acumen saw him appointed Development Director of the Renault F1 Team in 2007, looking after commercial matters, partners and sponsor acquisition. He became Executive Director in 2010 before moving back to Viry in 2011 when Renault re-centred its F1 activities around engine supply. As Deputy Managing Director, Cyril oversaw all contractual relations, marketing and communication activities with partner teams and created a solid platform for Renault as it re-established itself in its new guise.
Cyril’s success in the role led to him being head-hunted by the Caterham F1 Team at the end of 2012 to become youngest F1 team principal ever. After leading Caterham Group’s restructuring, he re-joined Renault in July 2014 to become Managing Director of Renault Sport F1 and spear-headed successfully the analysis of reacquiring a team for the Renault brand to continue its long F1 tradition. In 2017, Cyril will attend all Grands Prix.
How important is the 2017 season for Renault Sport Formula One Team?
This will be the first season where we are operating from the outset as one team so it is a good foundation year. Last year saw us use a car which was put together in a very rapid timeframe. This year we have been able to work on our car in an integrated fashion between Enstone and Viry. This car and this season should see us achieve strong progress.
What are the performance expectations for 2017?
The expectations are significant, though equally, we are still growing and the fruits of new personnel and new infrastructure do take time to filter through. In terms of performance, we will be a lot faster than last year, that’s for sure.
What are your specific targets for the team and the drivers?
We are aiming for fifth in the Constructors’ Championship and it’s clear that to achieve this we need to be scoring points regularly. This is a target for the team collectively, and the drivers individually. In terms of our drivers, Nico joins us with a lot of experience and talent. We expect him to deliver from day one and we are confident this will be the case. Jolyon had a strong rookie season where he developed and performed well and we expect the natural continuation of this. Both drivers should complement each other and the team should flourish with this pairing. 2017 will be the second season of what is a long term plan. We are not expecting miracles overnight, but we are clear on where we ultimately want to be.
What are the challenges to achieve this target?
The biggest challenges to achieve this are across design, manufacture and deployment. Any neglect of any particular area gives the opposition an advantage. The aero, the mechanical systems, the reliability, the integration, the way we manage the car at the track, the strategy, the control systems, driver management, quality of trackside engineering, all of these aspects need to take a step forward.
We can’t just point the finger at aero and say that they are solely responsible for leading us to glory in this brave new world of the 2017 regulations, we need to target every aspect. Everyone at Enstone and Viry has a degree of responsibility for our performance and ultimate success. Our target is doable, but we all have to work very hard to achieve it!
How is the Renault brand using Renault Sport Formula One Team?
We saw a number of dynamic initiatives over the course of the past twelve months, from last year’s car arriving on a surfboard in Australia to our drivers samba dancing their cars in Brazil. Formula 1 and our F1 team provide a stimulating platform for our markets and we will see many more exciting activations over the following months and years. It’s not just the Renault brand; we have Infiniti as a partner through the Renault-Nissan Alliance, not only helping us develop the next generation ERS, but also supporting the recruitment of young talents through their Engineers Academy programme.
What is the impact of the BP partnership?
It is a very important deal for us as a team in terms of image as well as in our search for performance. The deal also highlights a positive for Formula 1 as a whole since it showcases that the sport still has huge appeal for a major multinational corporation even in the interesting economic times in which we exist. We welcome BP and the Castrol brand to our family.
How do you describe the team’s status heading to this new season?
We are the fastest growing team in the grid. We have increased headcount by approximately 25% in Enstone and in Viry. We have recruited great talents from the best teams who have either joined us or will be joining over the next year or so. Names like Chris Dyer, Ciaron Pilbeam and Pete Machin. We have a few more key personnel still to come.
We have accelerated our investment by a factor of what the top teams are usually spending to accelerate the transformation in Enstone and in Viry, and in some sectors, we have not only caught up, but we are actually leading in terms of facilities. We have the fastest growing fan base on social media. We are in a good position to achieve our objectives.