Renault face up to problems as F1 high tech bites back
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Jan 2014   |  11:31 am GMT  |  92 comments

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”.

Taffin: "We have problems"

Renault seem confident about solving the problem. As Taffin added: “We’ve got the parts, we’ve got the people here and the means to do this, we are prepared to do this. We didn’t want this to happen when we arrived here, but that’s what’s happened. Its a bit of high technology, especially when you look at the energy store, so we have to do it carefully, but we are pretty sure that tomorrow we will be fine.”

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

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  1. Joost says:

    Haha, “we are going to be fixing something which maybe would have prevented us from finishing in Melbourne”

    You wouldn’t even make it to the starting grid.

    1. Ed says:

      So this fix that made them sure all 3 cars would be on the track managed to get them on to the track where they immediately broke down.

  2. M Wishart says:

    This is a funny story and I have mixed feelings.

    It sounds sad to think that I am happy with this situation as I want “Vettal” to be hampered, which is not sporting of me, but just wanting him to be taken down a peg or two.

    On the other hand, for Renault to have these issues could be a bit of a blessing for them, as breaking down now doesn’t cost them any points and at least they are sorting through the issues. Who knows the other teams bit breeze through testing then when it is race time things start to go wrong and “Vettal” drives off into the sunset on his own….!!!!


    PS. On another more important issue.


    1. Dan says:

      If Bernie has anything to do with it we’ll have double points for the last 3 races

      1. Jonathan says:

        if they must have double points they should make it interesting.

        Double points should be awarded at the FIRST race to reward those that did the best job through the winter.

        If it must be at more than one race they can have them at the last race as that rewards in-season development.

        … but then each team should be allowed a joker to claim double points at a track they think will suit their car best.

      2. Timmay says:


      3. hobbit31 says:


        Totally agree with the joker option.

      4. Pete says:

        And on top of that we can have a “wheel of f1″ that each team spins at the beginning of each race with options like “Free Pitstop” or “collect $200000 as you pass go”, “Get out of jail free for stealing other cars secrets” or my personal favorite “free ice cream”! [Sigh...] #F1isbecomingajokeroption

      5. Xman says:

        I think it will give the last 3 races a ‘finals’ feel to it. To be champion you have to perform in the finals too not only during season.

    2. AndyFov says:

      Don’t worry about Seb. Bernie’s pressing for double points for the last three races.

      The team with the most cash will be able to press on with development and more than make up for a faltering start.

      1. Jude120505 says:

        Bertie, I think you idea about double is brilliant. I thought for the last race it was inspired. For the last three, I think you a genius. Please, go the whole hog and let’s have double points for all 19!!

      2. Vivek says:

        I agree. That would be outright genius.

    3. Miha Bevc says:

      I didn’t like double points, but now I’m thinking they may work great for Vettel. He will have to catch up if Renault starts the season poorly … :D

      1. Jonathan says:

        there will always be partisan opinion…. but why on earth would you want to reward only in season development? Why are you so unfair to those that did a better job in the off season?

    4. aezy_doc says:

      Hold on lads, I’ve got a brilliant idea. Double points for ALL the races. Wait, wait…don’t mock. All tracks pay double to host a race and they all get equal prestige. Plus, the drivers and teams get to break more records by amassing more points than anyone ever in the history of the sport. We, the fans who can’t do maths think that since there are so many points available no one could possibly win it before the last race. It’s win-win-win. Bernie, whaddya think?

      1. AuraF1 says:

        I would laugh but you know someone at FOM has mentioned this in all seriousness!

      2. Jonathan says:

        isn’t that what they did a few years ago? It used to be 10 points for a win.

      3. Timmay says:

        Beat Ayrton’s carerr haul of points in 2 seasons – Michael’s in 3. Woop!

      4. Sasidharan says:

        They need to correct the records and change the points the earlier drivers would have got in the current point system, and the see where ALO stands.

  3. Luke Clements says:

    At what point do RBR panic James? How’s the look in their eyes? I imagine after day one, it was nothing, day 2 “alert but not alarmed”…day 3 after 3 hours now and nothing ” code red?”. I’ll bet Mark Webber has a wry smile on his face back home .

    1. J.Danek says:

      Renault I do not think are being transparent here.

      Others are reporting that they are beyond panic, having calculated it will take 20 weeks to resolve the issue and produce replacement components.

      Renault-powered cars will not be able to compete effectively in OZ.

      1. J.Danek says:

        …and obviously not just OZ, but through to British GP.

        This is devastating for them.

    2. aezy_doc says:

      Did you order a code red?

  4. M Wishart says:

    James, good see you chatting, your always worth a watch.

    But shocking program makers……..

    Only 2 cameras and seeing the camera person walking from one side to another and playing “Wait for his shadow”, in a very low quality static camera.

    Has this person ever held a camera before, do they know how to frame a shot, and if you are going to have a wide shot, please make sure that you don’t see any bags hanging around. (I could go on…)

    These are first week lessons in any school/college or university……Shocking.

    But great content from you.

    1. AuraF1 says:

      Erm if you’ve ever worked for any company supplying BBC3 you’ll discover there’s not that much training involved in media production any more ;)

  5. Andrew says:

    Hi James. I was just thinking that given the cars now contain a powerful electrical system, is there the capacity for the drivers to fire up the engine in the event of a stall or are the systems separated? Or do the regulations stipulate the car must be started externally?

    1. Timmay says:

      Waste of weight & packaging to have a driver operated starting mechanism – so I doubt it.

      1. Red says:

        Well, the electrical motors would be powerful (torque!) enough to ‘push start’ the engine so I imagine it would be very possible without a separate starter motor.

        Remember they were gunning for the cars to be run on electric only in the pit lane. No way would they be using an external starter after each tyre change.

  6. Ben says:

    It seems they have spoken to soon. Red Bull have not even managed to complete a sector before grinding to a smoking halt on track.

    As the majority of people (myself included) don’t want to see another Red Bull domination, this is looking promising but we all know that you can not discount this team…

    1. Scott says:

      The problem is that you could well have another team dominate the season, and that would be equally as bad as Red Bull dominating. Jenson Button could (again) even find himself lucking into another championship given the major nature of the rule change.

    2. Tabatha Valls says:

      I completely agree with you, Ben. The 2014 regulations are clearly shaking things up, but I don’t think you can ever rule Red Bull or Renault out, and anyway, this is what testing is all about. As Renault Sport F1′s head of track operations said yesterday, at least the problems are happening now and not at race weekends…

  7. David in Sydney says:

    A bad look for Renault. They often had KERS and general engine electrical problems before but now, with the added hi tech of turbo (ha ha) and ERS and bigger batteries their rivals are showing them up, at least at this stage.

    Mercedes if I recall had their 2014 engine finished first and was showing it off to the world. Ferrari was said to be behind the eight ball but they seem OK at the present time. Renault. Hmmm…

    Williams will be happy switching to Benz.

    Can’t wait to see Honda’s efforts.

    1. SteveH says:

      David, do you know who first developed the turbocharged engine in F1? Renault. They have had a bit of experience with it, including the first ever F1 win with a turbo.

      1. Gilles V says:

        That was almost 40 years ago. No recovery systems in those days. All their engineers are now retired. Oranges and apples

      2. warley says:

        Trouble is last years cars were little more than hotted up toyota priuses. The energy recovery and engine management strategy is now an order of magnitude more complex. Renault may have some catching up to do, world champs or not.

  8. sunny stivala says:

    Apart from the Renault power units “ES/batteries and turbo catching fire problems” reports were doing the rounds that “a problem with a batch of crankshafts” manufactured for the engines produced for the tests, “Renault instructed their teams not to run each engine at the test for more than 250 kilometres which at Jerez is just about 56 laps.

  9. Paul Watson says:

    This is what testing is all about.

    Nevermind RBR, if the problem truly is about integration within the individual Renault powered cars, Lotus are in deep deep poop!

  10. cedgy says:

    As much as I like the idea of anyone else but Redbull to dominate this years championship I have concerns that the engines will play too much of a role in who wins and who looses out.
    How many times will we see Vettel leading a GP until he’ll have to retire because of an engine failure/related issue?

    Not good for the sport!

    1. AuraF1 says:

      On the contrary it was always a part of F1 for cars to fail, often in the final laps, whether from fuel shortages, engines exploding, gearboxes falling through the floor…

      We got to the point of near perfect reliability last year and it seems people have forgotten that F1 was ALWAYS about machines on the edge that could blow at any moment. When fans cry out for a return to the good old days they should remember that those days were the days of pot luck and cars on the permanent edge of a total breakdown.

      It doesn’t seem fair on the drivers but I think sporting events, especially motor racing, always draws more viewers when there’s a risk of failures. Maybe it’s human nature.

    2. John S says:

      That has happened too many times even with the v8′s (Vettel retiring from the lead).

  11. john says:


    can I ask: why are the teams only allowed to run ONE car during tests? … or rather, why do they only run one car a day ?

    For example, why cant both McLaren’s or both Ferrari’s … or both of any team’s cars test – at any time – on any – or all of the days ?

    1. James Allen says:

      That’s the rule

      Cost saving

      1. Ahmad says:


        A test track has been allocated. Surely, it’s more cost effective to make as much use of it as possible given how little testing is allowed.

        It’s much better for everyone involved (teams, Pirelli, track officials) to allow each team to have two cars being tested so that they can test with various parts, tyres and settings to learn as much as possible in terms of performance, reliability and so on, especially given the regulation changes.

        Given how the points system punishes non-finishers, we want proper racing from the first race, not DNFs.

        It’s really poor decision-making from the FIA.

      2. Kimi4WDC says:

        Common sense is not welcomed at FOM/FIA meetings.

      3. john says:

        cool – many thanks

  12. cedgy says:

    Off topic:

    Anyone knows what Marussia is up too? When will they launch their car?

    1. Tabatha Valls says:

      Marussia finally got out on track for the first time today at around 2pm. Max Chilton completed 5 laps. The team is pleased with today and confident that they will get more laps under their belt in tomorrow’s final day of testing here in Jerez.

      1. cedgy says:

        Thanks for the reply Tabatha Valls and thanks for all your hard work! I enjoy reading your articles as much as James! Good work!

  13. Mark Fulford says:

    I bet there has been a few Renault guys doing an all nighter.

    It sounds like far from getting rid of the double points in the last race Bernie wants to make it the last 3 races. Why doesn’t he make all the races double point races and then we would all be happy

  14. Spyros says:

    Nice and informative as always, thanks!

  15. franed says:

    The BBC has some video of the first day.
    The Force India sounded very much like it was either misfiring or had traction control. Did no one else notice?

    1. AuraF1 says:

      I understand the cars can program in anywhere between 1 and 6 cyclinders firing now depending on the driver, and the turbo does add a whole host of sounds – but there have definitely been a few ‘problem’ sounds from a few of the cars on the bits of video. But these are all so new I expect it’s hard to judge what it is.

  16. Gudien says:

    Amazing that Renault have the parts on hand and tomorrow the cars will be on track. Quite a promise from Mr. Taffin and I hope he’s right.

    Red Bull return tomorrow with Ricciardo handling the driving which is a bonus for him relative to Vettel whom has gotten virtually no seat time at Jerez. Surely Sebastian Vettel, of the top drivers, has been affected the most by this Renault problem.

  17. Marc says:

    loved the interview with you and Tabatha give us more : )

    1. Tabatha Valls says:

      Thanks, I’m glad you like it :)

  18. Elie says:

    One problem down ons thousand to go.. Wait till Bahrain when the heat and dust get into those turbines. Better now than later- then Ferrari & Mercedes disappear into the wild blue yonder me thinks

    1. Tabatha Valls says:

      Exactly, as you say – better now than later on in the season, even though its going to be a tricky one for everyone. I wouldn’t rule out Renault or Red Bull just yet… There’s still a long way to go!

  19. Dmitry says:

    I don’t like Lotus, but I can only feel for them.
    When every other team will start upgrading their cars, Lotus will have to sort out initial issues.

    Yes, some of them will be resolved by Renault up to that moment, but surely not all.

  20. Jason says:

    Oh please let Red Bull continue to suffer maladies. Maybe that way we can get an entertaining and competitive F1 season instead of the bore fest we had last year.

  21. Dave Emberton says:

    Red Bull have lost a third day now.

    Lotus’ decision not to come looks kind of clever now doesn’t it? They’d have only wasted time waiting for Renault to fix their powertrains.

  22. Jonathan says:

    It looks like we are going to see another side of Vettel this year – it will be interesting to hear the way his fans moan and try and excuse his actions this year… especially those that accused Hamilton when he had to endure a poor car.

    What has Newey done? Renault apparently looked incredulous at the way Red Bull have installed the electrics. We all know he has an intense dislike of KERS and now ERS… but as it is now essential it is about time he started loving it!

    I can’t see Red Bull bullying the FIA and Bernie to change the power unit rules mid season.

    1. SteveS says:

      “Renault apparently looked incredulous at the way Red Bull have installed the electrics.”

      You just made that up, right?

      “I can’t see Red Bull bullying the FIA and Bernie to change the power unit rules mid season.”

      Just say “I don’t like Red Bull” and save yourself a lot of keystrokes and the rest of us a lot of time.

      1. Jonathan says:

        You wish!

        No, RBR have said that some of the issues are down to them.

        At the end of Thursday Torro Rosso have made a Renault engine go 10 times as far as their sister team….

    2. FerrariFan says:

      ‘What has Newey done? Renault apparently looked incredulous at the way Red Bull have installed the electrics.’ I read about this in another forum. I am not sure if this fact or fiction. I was under the impression that Red Bull is a Pseudo-manufacturer team. If that is so it seems like there was no input from Renault on engine-chassis integration.

      ‘I can’t see Red Bull bullying the FIA and Bernie to change the power unit rules mid season.’ – I think they can bully FIA into some sort of special mid-season test for Renault engines based on safety issues. Look what happened with the tire situation last year. They got it changed mid-season.

      1. SteveS says:

        That’s some spectacular historical revisionism right there. The tyres were not changed last year because of Red Bull “bullying”. They were changed, with the consent of all the teams, because they were dangerous.

    3. Random 79 says:

      “Renault apparently looked incredulous at the way Red Bull have installed the electrics”

      Incredulous like “this guy has no idea” or incredulous like “this guy is a freaking genius!!!”?

      1. warley says:

        According to the late Douglas Adams the border beween madness and genius is very narrow!

      2. Random 79 says:

        Apparently the RB10 cooling system is much the same :)

    4. AuraF1 says:

      Vettel has had relatively poor starts to the season before. In 2012 he was behind Webber until mid-year. In 2010 he didn’t lead the championship he eventually won.

      I’m not remotely a Vettel or RBR fan but I don’t think it’s helpful to make it a Hamilton fans versus Vettel fans slanging match. Let’s face it – Vettel almost always gets better as the year progresses – as does Newey. Whether that’s politicking, bedding in, technology advancing, or just their nature (or all of them) hardly matters.

      We’ve seen a lot of sides to Vettel. The humorous side when he jokes around. The serious side when he determines to win. The nasty side when he lies about not hearing the orders to stay behind Webber. The amazing side when he integrates with the car to blitz the field. Like all WDC’s he has light and dark to his character. Same with Hamilton, Alonso, Kimi, Button and reaching back to the WDC’s of previous generations.

    5. John S says:

      Alonso has had by your definition ‘poor’ cars and he hasn’t had psychological meltdowns like Hamilton. Alonso has been through a divorce and you’d never even know it through his driving. So yes, we can criticize Hamilton.

  23. Red Rider says:

    Success in motor sports will always be a combination of driver talent, and the rest: the mechanics, management (including pit crew). In some cases the driver counts for 7 and the team 3. In other cases it’s the other way around. I simplify. Also different drivers bring different skills to the table: raw speed, courage, can talk to the crew, work ethic. I wish all the teams, all the drivers, and all the suppliers success. But that isn’t going to happen. If nothing else, I’d enjoy seeing how Vettal handles qualifying in eighth on a regular basis. It would be fun to see Massa enjoying his time at Williams. The Kimi/Alonso soap opera might be entertaining also.
    Let’s hope Renault get this turned around quickly.

    Honda is looking and working

    … and as always JA thanks for all the fun.

    1. SteveS says:

      “I’d enjoy seeing how Vettal handles qualifying in eighth on a regular basis.”

      Cast your mind back to 2008, when his average qualifying position was eleventh on the grid. He finished the season eighth with one win.

      The last time Alonso qualified in eighth on a regular basis was 2009, when his average grid position was ninth. He finish the season ninth and did not win a race. A single third place finish was his only podium.

    2. jakobusvdl says:

      Good post red rider.
      Fingers crossed that Renault and the teams can sort these problems out. With such limited testing allowed, the Renault powered teams will have a huge disadvantage for the season – it’s not just an engine test.

  24. Sebee says:

    They’re waking Schumi up!

    Fingers crossed.

    1. Gudien says:

      Thanks, *SEBEE* for the reality check. Best of luck to Schumi and his family.

    2. Sammy says:

      Let’s pray for the best!

      1. Sebee says:

        Whoever it was that mentioned Evil Knievil and his successful recover from 29 day coma…that really got my hopes up.

        Seriously, Schumi, Jenson’s Dad, McLaren incident today. I hope we’re done with the bad news and hear some really good news really soon. Starting with Schumi.

      2. Phenom says:

        So well said Sebee, heartbreaking to think of all that Schumi has done and where he is now but if there is anyone I would put money on to defy science and medicine and make a strong recovery it would be Schumi. Forza Michael.

  25. FerrariFan says:

    Just looking at the live feeds on testing. not a good advertisement for Renault. Have they sold a lemon at the highest price? Its funny because a few years back after another Red Bull championship sweep, Renault was complaining that they were not getting the credit they deserved because of the Infiniti branding. I guess they will not mind that now.

    So if these issues persist (Bahrain being hot, I would expect it will be even worse), what will happen to the first races? Will there be only cars with Mercedes and Ferrari engines in these races? The double points for last few races makes perfect sense now. Its devised for helping Bernie’s favorite driver get another championship.

  26. Sarvar says:

    It appears a brilliant opportunity this season for Vettel to come through the field on each Sunday and win all fans’ hearts :)

  27. zombie says:

    The Renault troubles apart, i was comparing 2004-2008 era cars with the new ones, and it is amazing how simple todays cars look compared to the zillion appendages-clad, almost space craft looking cars of the yesteryears.

    1. Gaz Boy says:

      Agree, at least 2004/2005, the last two V10 formula years. It was Macca’s fault, they introduced the “Viking wings” in 2005 and every designer a year later went “oh look at that, lets stick lots of bits and pieces on the side of the car.” By 2007/2008 the cars were a mess of add ons, totally agree. Thankfully, the 2009 regs banned those, and that year we had the pretty, elegant and clean Brawn.

      1. J.Danek says:

        I disagree and think the 2008 cars, especially the McLaren, were some of the most beautiful of modern-F1.

  28. Anne says:

    Once again RB and TR had problems with the ERS. They still have tomorrow and the entire moth of February to fix this problem. But doing things in a hurry is not much of an insurance.

  29. janis1207 says:

    at Renault they have tried to be *very* clever with their power units while the others may have been more restricted.
    So, if Renault can fix whatever it is causing problems without damaging the overall concept much, they may well be ahead of the game once again.
    If not, it’s going to be a troubled year for them as homologation time is on horizon.

  30. MISTER says:

    Great article and awesome video. You should do a lot more of these James. Loved it.

  31. George says:

    Question I’ve had for a while James, is it allowed for the teams to run a complete car on a rig in the factory – if so surely every one would do this to check for all these integration issues Renault has got? A lot of the systems could be tested – rather like a straight line test? It seems like maybe not under some regulation? cheers.

    1. James Allen says:

      You mean a rolling road?

  32. Grant H says:

    Are you watching, are you watching, are you watching equinox, are you watching equinox…..!!

    Lets see how seb does in a bad car, the and only then will we find out if hes one of the greats haha

  33. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    James – will you be posting up the long/short run lap times like last year? I really enjoyed Prof Gillan’s insight into last year’s testing.

    1. James Allen says:

      Hopefull from Bahrain onwards when they start to mean something

  34. Steve W says:

    If Renault don’t get their problems completely solved before the season starts, I think all Renault teams should be awarded double-points until they catch up to the rest. To create a level playing field…


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