If you are one of the members of Renault Sports’ engineering team that supplies engines to Formula One, then you are going to have sleepless nights until the first F1 race in Melbourne, Australia in two weeks’ time. There are emerging reports that Renault is in serious trouble even before the first race starts.
For this year, the FIA has undergone the biggest technical revision in more than 20 years, with the introduction of a new turbocharged V6 engine complemented by the sophisticated energy recovery system (KERS). Renault-powered cars have won both drivers and constructor’s title for the past four years and this year Renault’s new V6 unit lagged behind rivals.
After three test sessions, Renault powered cars such as champions Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Caterham and Lotus were disappointed with the lack of pace and problems that plagued the power units. Worse, their mileage claims were way behind the Mercedes and Ferrari-powered cars. To add insult to injury, the Renault powered cars couldn’t catch up with their rivals, with four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel’s fastest time on Sunday’s final day of pre-season testing a full 4 seconds slower than table-topping Lewis Hamilton’s best with Mercedes. Four seconds in F1 is a veritable lifetime. Vettel’s frustration was well documented during the last weekend’s test in Bahrain (see pic above).
Renault Sport F1’s Rob White has conceded the 2014 F1 season opener in Australia will be a ‘anxious’ weekend for the French manufacturer.
“We can’t escape the fact that we did not complete the programme with all the teams and that some Melbourne preparations are incomplete. On the upside, we have done some of everything, with simulations of qualifying sessions, starts, race distances and long stints and we have made some progress. We have cured or found workarounds for some of the problems we had identified. New problems revealed as we ran more have added to the unsolved items, and have disrupted running, which is disappointing for our teams.”
White said their new ‘power unit’ remained ‘immature’, displaying shortcomings in torque delivery, and suggested the manufacturer would be scrambling to fix the teething problems ahead of the March 16 opener at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit. “Between now and Melbourne we have a number of items to cover,” he said. “I hope we can support our teams and drivers to explore the performance of the car and allow the race to deliver its sporting verdict.”
[Image Source: Sky Sports, Report Source: Reuters]