Renault is promising Red Bull that it will do everything it can to improve both the reliability, and general performance, of its engines and related parts for the remaining races of the season in wake of the latest alternator failure suffered by Sebastian Vettel in Italy.
What had already proved a challenging Monza weekend sunk to disastrous depths for the world champion team in the closing five laps of the race as the alternator on Vettel’s car failed for the second time in two days, prompting the German to park up, and then heavily-worn hard tyres accounted for Mark Webber following a spin on safety grounds.
Although slightly later in the championship, the depressing afternoon drew parallels with the last time Red Bull failed to score points in a grand prix – Korea 2010 – and Christian Horner’s downbeat demeanour in interviews post-race reflected the sense that the lost points have done serious damage to its chances of a hat-trick in both championship battles.
Having responded to the previous alternator break on Vettel’s car in Valencia in June – which cost the German a win and 25 points – by introducing a larger part for subsequent races, Renault has to now go back to the drawing board to establish the reason for the latest internal overheating fault.
Renault Sport’s head of track operations Rémi Taffin said: “This weekend has not been acceptable from either a performance or reliability point of view. We have to apologise to Red Bull for the two failures on Sebastian’s car, first in FP3 and now in the race. In both cases the alternator failed. We introduced a new spec’ of alternator following the problems in Valencia and believed this would overcome the issues. We are still looking into why the part failed again here but we do know that even though the alternator was being operated entirely within the prescribed range, the part itself overheated and shut off the power supply.
“This is a priority between ourselves and our suppliers and we have to ensure we are fully on top of the problem before Singapore.”
In both races that the alternator has failed on Vettel’s RB8 high ambient temperatures have been present but Magneti Marelli, the Italian firm which Renault works with on its systems including KERS, has said that this wasn’t the reason behind the repeat failure.
Although another of Renault’s customer teams, Lotus, has also experienced alternator issues, there have been suggestions that Adrian Newey’s famously tightly-packaged design approach may be exacerbating the problem for Red Bull.
BBC technical analyst Gary Anderson, speaking in the Five Live chequered flag podcast last night, suggested the team could also take it upon itself to do something about the insulation of the alternator – which runs at very high speed – drawing a parallel to an experience he had at Jordan in the mid-1990s with Peugeot power when it created a water jacket around the part to keep it cool with engine water.
Horner, whose team would have headed to Singapore with only a one-point advantage over McLaren had Jenson Button not dropped out of second, admitted the double DNF had left the team no more room for slip-ups.
“We can’t afford to not be finishing races,” he admitted. “It makes the mountain higher but both the drivers are still in the race for the championship and we’re leading the constructors’ by 29 points with seven races to go. We’ve just got to make sure we throw everything at it.”