Renault: Unacceptable that we have not mitigated the problems so that our partners could test

Rob White with Red Bull's Adrian Newey, Rob Marshall and Christian Horner before things went pear shaped at Jerez

Rob White with Red Bull‘s Adrian Newey, Rob Marshall and Christian Horner before things went pear shaped at Jerez

It has been an embarrassing week for Renault at Jerez where Formula 1 teams powered by the Frencha manufacturer, including world champions Red Bull, were plagued with problems that severely curtailed their well planned schedules.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that when Renault powered teams did laps they were woefully off the pace. Four teams – Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Caterham and Lotus – are already compromised as their Ferrari and Mercedes rivals have had relatively trouble free running and are way ahead of Renault at this stage on all fronts. More importantly they have gathered masses of valuable mileage and data over the past few days, while Renault have not.

Rob White, Renault technical director, explained in a Q&A what has gone wrong and the plan of action ahead of Bahrain.

Daniel Ricciardo stops out on track with a problem

Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo stops out on track with a problem

We have seen very little running from the Renault-engined teams this week. What have the issues been?
Rob White: We have not run enough laps, and when we have run it has not been at an acceptable performance level. The underlying causes are not straightforward: there isn’t a single component or system that has caused particular trouble. A number of related things have been troublesome, principally concerning the control and operation of the various sub-systems of the Power Unit within the car. For example on the first run day, we had problems with a sub-system within the Energy Store that did not directly concern either the battery nor the operation of the battery – it is an electronic part that was in the same housing as the Energy Store. We subsequently had problems with turbocharger and boost control systems with knock-on effects on the associated engine management systems, subsequently provoking mechanical failures.

What fixes did you implement in Jerez?
White: Between days 1 and 2 with the help of Red Bull, we implemented a later level of hardware for the rest of the test to address the problem within the Energy Store. This ran for the remaining days. In parallel to running in Jerez, the team at Viry has run dyno test programs to investigate the trackside problems and to propose solutions. We identified the probable root cause of our main turbo control issues, implemented some workarounds that were first seen at the end of day 3 and deployed in the three cars for day 4. This established a very minimalist baseline from which we could build.

Toro Rosso: Jean-Eric Vergne stops out on track with a problem

Toro Rosso: Jean-Eric Vergne stops out on track with a problem

Why were these issues not flagged up on the dyno?
White: We believed our initial configuration was a robust start point for track use but that has not proved to be the case. We have done substantial dyno running in a similar configuration with few issues. We now know that the differences between dyno and car are bigger than we expected, with the consequence that our initial impressions were incomplete and imperfect. Our intention was to run the car; we are very frustrated to face this litany of issues that we should have ironed out on the dyno and which have deprived us of a precious learning opportunity.

Have you learned from the limited running?
White: Absolutely, and at this stage every kilometre is hugely valuable. We recognize that when the cars have run, they are not running at an acceptable level. We are a long way from the type of operation we had planned and prepared for – largely as a result of the workarounds we have implemented – but all the information is useful. In dealing with the issues we have moved further away from the configuration we were comfortable with, which has resulted in the relatively slow times, but the running has given us a vastly greater understanding of the issues we face. We absolutely expect to have a more definitive solution in place for the next session in Bahrain.

Caterham: Robin Frijns needed a push

Caterham: Robin Frijns needed a push

Has every Renault powered team experienced the same issues?
White: Several problems are common to all, as the power unit is the same specification in all the cars except for relatively minor installations differences. Some problems are particular to one installation environment, but it is our responsibility to deal with all of them. In general, the individual issues are understood; we have worked with all three teams running this week and despite appearances, have made some useful progress. We have not uncovered any big new fundamental problem, although we must recognize that our limited running makes it impossible to be certain.

What is the road map from now until the second test in Bahrain?
White: Of course we now have a large job-list for Bahrain as a lot of the items we wanted to test in Jerez we have not been able to cover. The next stage is to identify the root causes for the problems we experienced, to develop the solutions to strengthen our validation process so we can be more confident to tackle Bahrain in a more normal way.

Renault V6 turbo engine

Somehting severely wrong with the Renault V6 F1 turbo engine package

Are you concerned by the fact that engine specifications are frozen pre-season?
White: The homologation deadline is the end of February and is fundamental to regulations. Beyond that time, changes are permitted only with prior approval from the FIA. Change is not forbidden, but subject to the sporting regulations and we should not get so hung up on this date.

In view of this test, are you still in favour of the new regulations?
White: Yes absolutely. The powertrain regulations are a massive challenge but also an opportunity, and are hugely important in placing F1 back [as] the vanguard of technology. We have the necessary tools and determination to succeed. The step we must take to reach an acceptable level of in-car performance is bigger than we would have liked. It is unacceptable that we have not been able to mitigate the problems sufficiently to allow our partners to run at any length. We are working hard to correct this in time for Bahrain and aim to make amends there. (GP247-Renault)

Subbed by AJN.

  • Hugo

    To all those blaming Newey’s packaging… why is it that Toro Rosso and Caterham also have problems?

  • Schu

    Didn’t Renault have engine issues last season? They seem to get it sorted quickly enough.

  • Maccafan

    They all have problems, but the packaging Newey assembled is questionable. I would suspect that “Some problems are particular to one installation environment” means Newey put something together a bit differently than the others, but Dyno and Track are two very different environments that clearly Renault hasn’t correlated effectively yet. Even the additional vibration from the actual track surface over the rollers of a dyno can affect the components.

    Overall, this excites me for the racing season. Viva la reliability issues!

  • Major Tom

    Hugo:

    Red Bull have completed least laps by far, so it indicates a specific Red Bull problem.

  • Hawk

    The last answer for Bernie

  • BS

    Hugo…RB cars are so hot, they’re catching on fire. It’s just a fact that Newey packs everything in tightly…that’s why they had KERs problems, too.

  • Taskmaster

    Not sure what everyone is getting at pointing fingers at the most successful car designer on the grid. He does what he does and it wins. Now they have a new challenge in front of them, and we can assume he will find the solution with the same expertise he has in the past. Renault has always wimped about the tight packaging, it’s their job. Leave it to power train engineers, and the whole rear of the car would the the size of a bus with big wide open scoops and louvers keeping a steady flow of cool air across their precious mechanicals. Leave it the the aero people, they’d wrap it all in shrink wrap and let it fry. Somewhere in the middle there is a solution. Today, perhaps Red Bull pushed a bit too far in the let it fry direction, so Newey dashed back to the boards to fix that. Doesn’t change the fact the Renault screwed the pooch on this test week for all their customers, and need to pull it together in short order… or risk seeing their reputation go up in smoke for being the one that failed to get it right in time.

  • StevetheGreat

    Was it Confuscious or JJ Lehto that said “He who discounts Renault in January, loses money in November.” ;)

    Haters gonna hate, but they are also the biggest fools.

  • Wim

    Wasn’t the last guy to win the championship when F1 cars had a turbo, Alain Prost?

    They should go knocking on his door.

  • RBC

    Just happy to see the cheats Red Bull suffering.

  • torque

    A large discount seems to be in order for this debacle, and maybe a firing or two.

  • Matthew

    @Taskmaster

    An excellent and very clear post. Hopefully it will pound some sense into some of the people here that are about as intelligent as a brick wall.

  • scotto

    @Wim – Turbos were banned at the end of 1988, when Senna won the Championship. Prost won in 1989, the first year of the non-turbo era.

  • RBC

    I love how Renault didn’t realize that they needed to test their engines in extreme situations on the dyno. They had year of experience in knowing the extreme situation an F1 car causes and they still screwed it up building crappy dynos. Idiots.

  • Mopar21277

    If there is a full-on panic from RB after the Bahrain test, I wonder how much $$$ Dietrich would have to pay Ferrari or Merc for one of their engine packages?

    The $$$ would probably be enormous, due to the ass whippins RB has put on them since 2009.

  • farizY

    @RBC
    Wow, very mature indeed. How old are you? 12?