The numbers didn’t lie yesterday; there was clearly something wrong at Renault.
On day two of the Jerez test the four Mercedes-powered cars completed a total of 212 laps; the two Ferrari runners, 100; and the three Renault-powered cars just 19 laps. Even adding the Day 1 total, another 19 laps, cars powered by the new Renault Energy F1-2014 engine had completed just 38 laps. Problems in the integration and management of the batteries in the powerful energy storage system have been identified as the culprit, although Red Bull is understood to have suffered an issue on the turbo.
“Trepidation” was a word used by many F1 engineers over the winter; the uncertainty surrounding these highly complex new hybrid turbo power trains meant that everyone was anxious, knowing that someone was sure to have problems. They all just hoped it wouldn’t be them. Least of all an engine builder that has won the last four straight world championships.
“Obviously we are facing problems,” said Remi Taffin, Renault Sport F1 head of track operations at the close of business on day two. “You just have to bear in mind that the power unit is made up of a lot of sub-components and it’s not a matter of saying that none of it is working, it’s just a problem of the integration of all these systems. In particular, for this problem, we have to fix it through the energy store. I’m not going to go into detail about the architecture of our system, but we have clearly identified something that we have to change”.
The hardware problem has affected the Renault-powered teams in different ways. Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson completed 11 laps today, Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel did eight, while Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat didn’t even go out yesterday.
“Some teams can do more laps than others because there are different integrations depending on the team,” explained Taffin. “The sensitivity of the power all together can be different from one part of the power unit to the other. So to get rid of this sensitivity we need to change a bit of the hardware. We’ve made sure that now its consistent enough so that we can run without any problems but this is the reason why we’ve got discrepancies from one team to another”.
It’s not unusual for problems like this to happen at the start of a season with so many changes and Taffin insisted that a unit that tests well on a dyno can still suffer problems after installation.
“We have tested the power unit on the dyno, but when you fit it into the car you always know that its going to be a bit different than the dyno. We were not expecting this problem here, but it’s a very different thing to run the power unit in the car than it is on the dyno”, explains Taffin.
“We have clearly identified the problem”, he added. “We are confident that tomorrow morning we will have all three cars on track”.
“On our side we have learned a lot and we are going to be fixing something which maybe would have prevented us from finishing in Melbourne, so we are happy with this and we are happy we’ve got the fix,” Taffin concluded. “Obviously we’ve missed some laps – we were expecting to get some more mileage onto our cars but it’s not the end of the world. We still have two days to go and if we get two good days we will be fine.”
Further analysis from JA on F1 Technical Adviser Mark Gillan will follow.
Posted by Tabatha Valls Halling, Jerez