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Hockenheim 2014
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Shake up at Renault after heavy Red Bull criticism
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Posted By: Matt Meadows  |  03 Jul 2014   |  3:38 pm GMT  |  47 comments

Renault Sport F1, the arm of the French car company that designs and manufactures Formula One engines for Red Bull and others has today announced that its President and Managing Director, Jean-Michel Jalinier, has stepped down from the company. He cited personal reasons, but it follows calls from its main customer Red Bull for “changes” in the management at the French manufacturer.

Taking Jalinier’s position is current Chief Performance Officer Jerome Stoll, who will maintain his previous role whilst becoming President and Managing Director. Stoll will be reported to by Cyril Abiteboul, a Frenchman seen frequently around the F1 paddock in recent years as the CEO of Caterham F1.

This year’s Renault Formula One engine, after initially proving itself to be both slow and unreliable, has made strides in the opening phase of 2014, taking a race win with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in the Canadian Grand Prix and enjoying much improved reliability.

However, where previously Mark Webber had long suffered the lion’s share of unreliability behind the wheel of a Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel is now the victim of a string of issues. The last Grand Prix in Austria saw Vettel lose power in his RB10 on the second lap, before rejoining and eventually retiring at midpoint in the race.

At the time, Red Bull claimed Renault’s performance was ‘unacceptable’ – the words of Team Principal Christian Horner. “We’ve won all the races and all the championships that we’ve achieved with Renault power,” said Horner. “But the situation just isn’t improving at the moment.

“The reliability is unacceptable. The performance is unacceptable. There needs to be change at Renault. It can’t continue like this. It’s not good for Renault and it’s not good for Red Bull.

“Something needs to happen because whatever’s being done there at the moment isn’t working.

“It’s not our business, it’s not our responsibility. We’re the end user and it’s just frustrating that it’s not where it needs to be at the moment.”

In response to Vettel’s retirement Renault Sport have investigated the failure, as all engine suppliers do with any minor technical glitch, and found that the problem arose from the standardised Formula One ECU (electronic control unit), rather than that of an inherent Renault fault.

XPB.cc

Speaking to Autosport, Renault’s head of trackside engineering Remi Taffin said, “”We found that after Vettel pressed the overtake button, it selected a map that was not accepted.

“It resulted in it having a torque demand of zero newton metres, so there was no power. It was basically idling.

“We found out in this instant that it was this [overtake] button that triggered it, and that is why we asked [Daniel] Ricciardo to not use it.”

Changes have been made to the system ahead of Red Bull’s second home race at Silverstone this weekend and it is expected that the rare problem will not reoccur.

Vettel is one of six drivers, four of whom use Renault power, to have only one power unit remaining before being subject to a ten-place grid penalty. It is therefore a priority for Renault Sport F1 and its new senior management structure to minimise the chance of such events occurring.

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47 Comments
  1. Scott Alexander says:

    Isn’t this a little harsh on Renault? They have won the last 4 world titles with Red bull which seem to count for nothing and they have still managed a win this year and are sitting alright in the constructors title. Everybody knew that this year was going to be a tough year with these new engines etc. I think it could be a lot worse, perhaps far too use to walking the title each year!

    1. Sebee says:

      Harsh if you compare to the worst. RBR compare with the best…scratch that…RBR are the best after that 4 year run. And when compared to the best this year Mercedes, there is a point that RBR have.

      However, I also feel that the RBR did benefit speed wise from a few tricks as we know. Tricks that aren’t possible perhaps in 2014. And that speed loss is maybe wrongfully being blamed at Renault as well. Who knows…?

    2. Ace says:

      Renault F1 single handedly took their 4 time championed partners from the front to squabbling in the tail end of the points. Falling on their own sword
      What someone (knowledgeable) could explain to me is why Red Bull are taking a step back from their engine partner and saying “we’re just a customer” when clearly they have a works relationship. In the past all the fancy engine maps were customised to their blown diffuser, until the regulations outlawed it. Now they’re just washing their hands off the problem instead of working with Renault to optimise the engine for their car, like a works team such as Ferrari and Mercedes.

      1. Ben says:

        My understanding is that Red Bull have been providing some additional man power to Renault to help them solve their problems

    3. Eggman says:

      If you are a customer (which red bull are) and you pay for a product at the top level, you expect it to be at least competitive. Without the red bull aero, they would be lost. Red Bull are a good team, however the renault engine was never the strongest power wise and remains that way this year but with more unreliability. Renault need to act quickly otherwise they will lose their customers. They have nearly lost lotus and we know red bull have been looking elsewhere. Unfortunately at a top level you have to provide a competitive product to even be considered.

      1. Matthew M says:

        Renault wasnt the stronget power wise but it was the most fuel efficient As well as friendlier on thier tyres thanks to a more gentle torque curve. That made a huge difference over the last 4 years. I think Red Bull have been harsh on Renault especially when Mark Webber himself has a bad track record of reliability at Red Bull.

        It’s Red Bulls staff that are coming up short not the engine supplier. Time has already proven that and changing engines wont fix it.

      2. kenneth chapman says:

        @ matthew M…..so if red bull were able to put a mercedes PU in their car they woudn’t be anywhere else but where they are? c’mon, that’s dreamtime.

    4. James Clayton says:

      A little harsh on Renault? They single-handedly forced the FIA’s hand into going with this engine formula. One might expect, after such a display, that they’d actually be able to build an engine that can run in it!

  2. Gaz Boy says:

    Don’t feel sorry for the Regie. This new regs were announced in mid summer 2011. Everybody has notice of 2.5 years to implement and design a brand new PU from scratch. That’s plenty of advanced warning. Renault have not done their sums properly, where as Merc has. Simple as………
    On a personal level, if the Big Man in the Sky wants to turn a Saturday and Sunday foregone Silver Arrows conclusion into a totally unpredictable and amazing spectacle, some of the wet stuff around 1 PM local time would be ideal…………….let’s not forget, when one of his more eccentric followers invaded the track back in 2003 (a defrocked priest if I remember correctly) and after the safety car had come in it laid the foundations of the one of the most epic races in modern F1……..
    Actually, on a serious note, cooler track temperatures and a wet track would take some of the strain off the engines, Renault powered units in particular…………

    1. Frankie says:

      I watched that 2003 race again two days ago. It was fantastic. Montoya was a great character for F1 back in those days also.

  3. JOS says:

    Interesting that the manufacturer of the standard ECU was not named in the article…

    1. Quercus says:

      If it’s a standard ECU and it’s running fine in Mercedes-engined cars, one must assume that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with it; only the way its integrated into the Renault power unit, dont’t you think?

      1. Alex says:

        It’s running fine across the board. Like Horner said above, they’re the end users. So how they choose to use the software and program the ECU is a Red Bull issue. Not a McLaren issue.

    2. Random 79 says:

      It’s McLaren.

      1. A says:

        McLaren makes the ECU but the programming is done by Renault/RBR.

      2. Random 79 says:

        I know. Initially I thought JOS was asking who manufactured it, but when I read it again I realised he was being sarcastic…

  4. Steve S says:

    “However, where previously Mark Webber had long suffered the lion’s share of unreliability behind the wheel of a Red Bull ..”

    It’s bad enough that certain fans repeat this canard, it’s unforgivable coming from a professional F1 journalist. Mark Webber did not suffer the lions share of unreliability behind the wheel of a Red Bull. He and Vettel had virtually identical rates of mechanical failure over their time together at Red Bull.

    1. Ace says:

      Why don’t you or James just prove it once and for all. A “you heard it here first” thing

      1. Steve S says:

        http://forums.autosport.com/topic/189538-vettel-webber-and-reliability-at-red-bull/

        There’s plenty of this sort of thing on the net, all done by knowledgeable fans. For some reason the professional F1 reporters can’t seem to be bothered with facts.

    2. CJD says:

      right think at the alternator, vettel hit 4 times .. webber never, but ok there where other occaions when webber really suffered … frontwing e.g. …

      1. Voodoopunk says:

        The front wing that he didn’t want to use but didn’t want Vettel to have, that front wing?

    3. littleredkelpie says:

      says the man simply repeating an alternate canard ….. (good word btw)

    4. Miha Bevc says:

      That’s true. Someone did the stats at the end of last year, and it was pretty evenly matched. Don’t forget Seb started 2010 season with 2 or 3 car failures, Mark’s car was more reliable in 2010 I think. However, Mark was really unfortunate in 2013.

    5. Random 79 says:

      That was shown in an article by James a little while ago, and yet the lasting impression is that Mark got shafted more often, perhaps because the team might have screwed up more often than the engine.

      1. Matthew M says:

        I remember Webber sitting out most of the practice sessions aswell as a handfull of qualifying sessions in the garage due to mechanical issues last year.. He made it to the end of allot of races despite this.

        I remember Webber criticising RB around Septemeber last year about all the problems his car was having on his side of the garage. A few times he would show up and not even run a installation lap on FP1 because of a “Kers” issue.

    6. Lockster says:

      Maybe the faults leading to a car retirement was a similar number for the both of them, but the amount of times that Webber was told not to use KERS due to whatever reason was significantly more than Vettel.

    7. RacingFanatic says:

      @Steve S – what is with you always having to put others down in order to make Vettel seem amazing. I’m fairly certain James has a better insight into the sport than you would. Vettels problems were often a result of simple unreliability whereas it seemed as though whenever the team stuffed up it always happened to Webber. You can’t deny that.

      1. kenneth chapman says:

        i fully concur with your analysis.

  5. Andy says:

    I would think that it’s somewhat disconcerting for users of the Renault Power unit to find that the Chief Performance Officer is now the new head honcho, especially as the power unit has underperformed, and that’s putting it mildly.

  6. Mike barret says:

    Renault is a world car company with a very long history and succes in motorsport, I think that the have a problem with the integration of its PW with all their costumer chassis, so in the ene it is a problem of both sides. They need time to resolve, and with the freezing regulations it is a shame they can’t redesign some components, but I hope they will succeed!

    1. RacingFanatic says:

      You hit the nail on the head. That is the absurdity of the crazy regulations in this sport at the moment. Hey I know!! Lets bring in a totally new engine format which basically asks the manufacturers to build little miracles (that is what these engines are IMO) and then impose a freeze on development. So in other words, the Championship is basically decided before the season even begins (or at least rules anyone without Mercedes power units out). Not blaming Mercedes in the slightest, they just happened to have the best solution, but it has made for a very predictable season and doesn’t leave much for those who support drivers/teams without Mercedes power.

      I honestly don’t know who comes up with the absurd regulations and rules that are being implemented in the sport at the moment but it is about time those with the power took a long hard look at what is going on and start listening to the actual fans of the sport, you know the ones that make it possible to exist!!

      1. eric morman says:

        it is related to reduce spending,

        the one that is going to hurt the Renault teams is the starting grid penalty’s for using more than 4 engines,
        next couple of races and these will start to show.

      2. Ben says:

        I understand your frustration and from the outside it may seem ridiculous but you have to take into account that there are several teams that are struggling financially this year and 2 of them are using Renault PU’s. It is rumoured that the cost of the Renault is already the highest on the grid (now that is ridiculous) and the idea of the development freeze is to stop the cost spiralling even higher. It is annoying, for non Mercedes fans, that that is the way the dice has rolled but that is sport… At the end of the season there will be an opportunity for Ferrari and Renault to catch up but this year they are having to find other ways around it, remember there are still aspects of the ERS that can be developed and Silverstone should favour RB so it may still be closer than you think!

  7. Dan says:

    …..and “overtake” was a brand new concept to the software guys at Renault??? Gee, I think they probably had some time to test their mapping before running it in their customer’s product.

    Which brings me to a point that nobody really asks about anymore. The driver is becoming less and less of a factor with the technology being employed. What is the “real world” application of software that controls how much power (acceleration) an engine produces based on GPS coordinates? Too irrelevant and too costly.

    The “show” is a shadow of it’s former self. No wonder attendance is falling. Decisions by board members instead of racers has brought us to DRS and other nonsense (ask the drivers) like racing in places where empty grandstands emphasize the money vortex that is F1.

    I say screw the whole FIA rulebook, re-write it with minimal electronics (oh, and a good old-fashioned throttle cable) and let engineers design engines that will surpass power outputs from the 80′s. Add a real clutch pedal, a real gear shifter (6 speeds maximum) and put the requirements for driver skill where it used to be rather than how well someone plays a video game.

    1. RacingFanatic says:

      Could not agree more. It’s amazing how many people around the place are saying EXACTLY what you just said. Here in Australia, we have a national football code called the NRL and about 10 years ago when the sport started heading in a bad direction, many of the teams, owners, various powers at be got together and started a separate league. I think something like this needs to be done with F1. When you say attendance is falling you are spot on and that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of decline. I have watched and loved F1 for many many years and only in the last 12 months have I actually started to fast forward through races or not bother to set ridiculously safe taping measures etc in order that I dont miss a single minute.

      I want the days back where I used to be so excited about Formula 1 that my whole week would be brighter if it was a race weekend. I know I am one of a growing many that feels this way. :(

      1. kenneth chapman says:

        according to charlie whiting the FIA do listen to the fans and i can turn lead into gold!!!

    2. Matthew M says:

      Red Bull are the guys who implement and configure the ECU not Renault…

      +1 to your point on the driver. They need to strip all the telemetry off the cars its worse than the days of traction control at the moment. Ban the use of sensors during the race. It used to be a driver skill to nurse the tyre’s and car. But now the cars are so fragile that goes a lap without telemetry or radio is a certain retirement.

  8. fer says:

    Guess who programmed the standard ecu, and put the wrong map under the overtake mode? The teams program the ecu, themselves.

  9. Random 79 says:

    I said I thought it would be Rob White who left (or was booted), but I’m glad to see I was wrong.

    Maybe Jalinier did step down for personal reasons (and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt), but if not then at least he’s taken the responsibility on himself and not just fired some underling.

    1. kenneth chapman says:

      @ random….only ten days ago i read an article somewhere on the aggregation site Newsnow where jalinier stated that the “renault PU will match the mercedes for power and performance in a very short period” taken to mean some weeks or so!!! then but a few days later it was stated by renault that apart from some very minor tweeks there will be nothing more this season!!!!!!

      now jalinier has been shown the door and rightfully so. when teams are paying such huge amounts for PU”s they expect them to be not only reliable but competetive. given this debacle i am surprised that red bull have been so accomodating.

      1. Random 79 says:

        I suppose they had to be accommodating up to a point, but clearly that point has been reached and now the gloves are off.

        They say they’re still sticking with Renault for 2015, but at this point I think that if there was another viable alternative they’d take it.

      2. kenneth chapman says:

        @random 79….yes, you are quite correct.

  10. Phenom says:

    Hi James,

    Referring to the 6 drivers who have only 1 power unit remaining this season, can you enlighten us?

    Presumably this is yet another area where Lewis is at an unlucky disadvantage to Nico who must surely still have the full complement?

    Considering how devastatingly crucial this could be to many contenders I’m surprised more has not been made of it.

    Vettel will almost surely finish behind Ricciardo even if he picks up the pace massively due to this no?

    Thanks

  11. Mitch says:

    I can’t see why Renault should shoulder all the blame.

    It was an unfortunate decision years back when the engine was Renaults responsibility and energy recovery was part of the gearbox design. KERS was problematic – mainly for Webber.

    I recall some blame aimed at Flavio Briatore for that design decision at pre season testing.. so maybe Red Bull should be singing the same song again.

  12. Mr A (Melbourne) says:

    Oh for a pair of magnetos and a few carburettor jets to twiddle!

  13. GRLap says:

    Never mind Renault Sport, if you want to fix Renault SA then start at the top and toss the egotistical blow-hard Carlos Ghosn to the curb and put in place someone that knows how to run a volume car company, not someone who’s focus is stroking their own massively over-blown ego.

  14. DaveF says:

    It is hard to have any sympathy for Renault given how they pushed for the new engines. You’d think they would have put sufficient resource into the project. Saying that given how integral the engine is to the overall design of the car (weight distribution, centre of gravity, etc) you’d think Red Bull would want more integration with their engine supplier rather than sitting back. Maybe they will look to change suppliers (or even buy their own engine company)?

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