The return to competitiveness of Renault and Lotus should take another step this weekend in China, as the black and gold cars have some updates on the chassis side and they will also have the latest specification Renault power units as used in Bahrain by Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
The season has started very badly for a team that this time last year was fighting for wins and podiums in the early flyaway races. Lack of mileage due to reliability concerns has been hugely frustrating for the team and its drivers. Even the Bahrain test after last week’s grand prix yielded less than 200km of running.
The latest specification Renault power units cut the power deficit to Mercedes from around 70bhp to around 40bhp, according to those in the know. That’s still a 4/10ths of a second deficit at most F1 venues. The power deficit has so far also compromised the DRS effect as the teams had to reduce the rear wing elements to improve top speed.
This new specification unit has a revised exhaust and is more robust in the turbo and MGU-H connected to it. This means that Renault can get most of the maximum 160hp boost from the Energy Recovery System, which it had not been able to do before.
Renault’s Remi Taffin admitted to this website in Bahrain that the company was one month behind the opposition.
In the build up to Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix Taffin spelled out some details on the progress made,
“We’re feeling more confident ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix. While we know that the others are still ahead, we have made some good progress in the last two races, both in reliability and driveability, particularly in race modes.
“At the test in Bahrain we tested several new software modes that will see us closer to the limits of the Power Unit than before. In the past three races we have been some way from the edge of the performance envelope but these new modes should see us running more to the extreme.
“We have been working on the energy management per lap, particularly in the slow corners. We know we are missing out on the straights but these new steps have given us greater traction in the turns, which should in turn extend tyre life and give greater flexibility on strategies.”