F1 Winter Break
Renault makes alternator fix ‘priority’ for Singapore as Red Bull count cost of lost points
Red Bull Racing
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Sep 2012   |  3:30 pm GMT  |  91 comments

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.”

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Expect redbull to be very strong in Singapore as they have been very good on the 90degrees type corners we have see there. In monaco and Valencia they was very fast.

Ps if I ever heard the nonsense that the British fans again are the best again i will fall over laughing. The noise the crowd made for alonso on the podium yesterday was one of the best moments in sport I've ever seen. Brillian support from the tifosi as usual. The old classic tracks hardly ever dissapoint. I suppose Singapore is the best of the new tracks on the calendar as past few years.


Sorry this is off topic, but really looking forward to your take on the Hamilton Mercedes story James, what's your call? Will he or won't he?

He looked like a driver who had realised the magnitude of a decision he had recently taken after the Italian GP....


Are you going to be doing a full piece on this James? I'd love to hear your thoughts in depth alongside some pros and cons.

If he goes, I'd love some reassurance that knows something I don't and hasn't decided that being a 'brand' is more important than being a winning driver.


So you're actually happy that the Italian crowd booed the race winner on Sunday are you ?

The Italian crowd just demonstrated to the world that they don't appreciate a flawless performance by Hamilton and his Mclaren over the entire weekend.

Contrast this with crowd at the British GP and the Olympics. British crowds have a true sporting attitude : yes, they will give the loudest cheer to a Brit, but they also appreciate and applaud anyone putting in a worthy performance.

The behaviour of the Italian crowd at Monza was an utter disgrace but not entirely unexpected.

It's strange how the Ferrari team seems to attract an unpleasant element that simply doesn't comprehend the concept of sportsmanship and fair play : it's just not on their Radar at all.

We frequently see it in contributions to this and other F1 sites and it's not pretty.


Brits appreciate and applaud anyone putting in a worthy performance?!? Nice joke. Tell that one to Casey Stoner someday.


I cheer for who I want and I'll boo or laugh at who I want, nobody is going to tell me otherwise, its a free country!


Agree with that Monza1. The tifozi only see red. People mistake that patriotic passion very easily and Sunday was a glaring reminder- pathetic really !. The rest of worlds fans are better not just English. You don't have to be patriotic to respect a winner.


It wasnt just only the Italians who booed the result, many British, who apparently are the 'the best fans in the world' also booed the result. I am Britsh and find this argument about the best fans completely absurd and find myself thinking, who cares who the best fans are?


There seems to be reliablilty problems a few teams now.


I'm sorry but this is just crazy... why blame Renault when it's the car design problem?

One just has to look back at history to see Newey's McLarens weren't the most reliable cars. Due to his designs always had to package the car so tight that cooling has always been a problem.

Engine freeze has been in place for many years. RBR never had problems during their winning years and now that they hit problem, it's immediately Renault's fault? That's just wrong.

They should get Newey to revise the car design instead.


It was the same failure on Grosjeans Lotus in Valencia. I don't think Newey had a hand in designing that car!


Newey is famous for designing fast but fragile cars. Don't see what this has to do with Renault, it's likely to be how the alternator is packagaed that's the issue.


I dont think it's possible for Red Bull to change much to their car. All cars are homologated before the first race. After that, there isnt a lot which the teams can do to change their cars.


The problem is the alternator, suplplied by Renault..

Although it could happen to anyone, 3 alt failures this year, all Renault engined..

Sort of ironic, considering the majority of failures on French built road cars tend to be with the electrics.. No?


The alternator isn't supplied by Renault but hey, why let the facts get in the way of a chance to bash another country right?


My alternator broke in France this year. A Renault garage fitted a new one. That broke two weeks later. Coincidence?


Here is the relevant section of the writeup on scarbsf1 about this:

"Firstly, a point I need to stress, is that the failed alternator is a Renault part. I have quoted Marelli data in the post so far, as this is about the only detailed information on F1 alternators in the public domain. But this doesn’t link the failures to the Italian supplier in anyway."


How then, from the article, did Renault introduce a new spec version of it for this race if they don't supply it?


The buck stops with the end supplier.. all Renault in this year.

Whoever made the alt is a moot point; It's Renault's responsibilty for the parts supplied. Maybe they need to test their supplied parts better and hold their hand up when it goes wrong.. Still don't see any of the other non-renault engined cars having so many electrical problems..

As someone else said, RB tend to take it to the wire in design, which could, and can, have an impact on a parts performance, but RG DNF was also the same issue (same race with Vets first alt failure), which would suggest that Renault should be sourcing better parts, or at least proving the parts reliabilty under duress before THEY supply them to the teams..


"The problem is the alternator, suplplied by Renault."

The alternator is supplied TO Renault FROM Magneti Marelli (sp?).

Either way, it shouldn't fail so often.


I have a British-Leyland era Jaguar, so will refrain from making comments on the reliability issues of electrical systems on cars from any nation.


About the engine freeze and RB's winning years; it's amazing that Red Bull never complained about the Renault engine in 2010 even though it was producing around 50bhp less than the others. James - am I right in saying Renault were given special dispensation to develop it?


They and Renault were complaining after the engine freeze. At the time of the freeze all engines were very similar, Ferrari got to make some changes based on reliability grounds after the freeze and gained bhp from it. Renault tried to make changes based on the same principle and were rejected.

Also Kay,

Redbull aren't the only ones to have this failure this year. RG's Lotus suffered the same failure in the same race as Vettel earlier in the year (Valencia).

Two different cars + Same problem = manufacturer issue.


@Kay, why argue so vehemently it's not an issue with the manufacturer of the part when Renault themselves admit it is? Who are you to know better?


Sorry Kay, but if the part is designed for it's two primary users specifically, then its a problem.

Which is why Renault are saying,

Hey we have have a problem!!

And Newey didn't design the Lotus. You stated Newey's design needed revising.

So two different designers having the same problem still = manufacturer issue


Not if two teams coincidentally have a similar approach to packaging the thing so tightly around the hardware inside. Just coz there are two cars having problems, doesn't mean it has to be the manufacturer's fault.

Two guys misusing their phones which resulting in breaks don't mean it's the manufacturer's design problem.


You must be forgetting 2010 when RBR had major reliability issues all season long, unless I've misunderstood.


Bahrain - Spark Plug, Vettel

Australia - Brake failure, Vettel

Turkey - brain, Vettel

Korean - Engine, Vettel

Hardly 'major reliability issues', not to mention in relation to engine problems aren't taking the most of them all.


Does it matter? It's still Adrian's design.

The point is his designs have always had shown reliability problems due to things being tightly packaged.



Horner got it wrong saying 19 points. It's 29.


Hi James, I was hoping you could shed a little light on something for me. As a Formula One fan I feel Christian Horner somewhat insults the intelligence of the viewers, and is full of nonsense more often than anything fair. I just want to mention the incident at Monza. It's been debated, there are many online video comparisons, and generally the consensus is Vettel certainly left much less room for Alonso than Alonso left him a year ago. I feel that at this time last year Alonso respected a rival and championship leader enough to leave room. This year it just shows Vettel's lack of respect for his opponent when footage shows Vettel looking in the mirror then closing the door.

But I'm not surprised by Vettel, he's the prima Donna in F1 and when he doesn't have the fastest car we'll continue to see his petulant side on occasion. What surprises me is that Christian Horner can actually not logically admit an error that is obvious to most fervent fans. He holds a major position in basically a business entity but apparently doesn't have the depth of character that Romain Grosjean did when he held his hands up after Spa. I'm not condemning Horner, I just feel that this isn't the first time he's tried to defend or refused to admit an obvious mistake. Since this is just one fans opinion, you certainly know more than I do... Am I being harsh in my criticism? I feel that instances like this, simply calling a penalty "harsh" when it's obviously right with revised rules, makes fans respect his opinion or honesty a lot less. Part of me wonders if this is because of the way he and Red Bull have bulldozed into F1. Is blind loyalty a trait of all team bosses?


> he’s the prima Donna in F1

I didn't know Lewis had left the sport?


If your looking for honestly from the redbull camp - forget it - esp. when it comes to anything related to their wonder boy Seb.

Its never Seb's fault according to the team - even when its against his teammate or one of their fellow STR drivers.

Webber wins = its good news

Seb wins = team management are over the moon

Webber's car fails = its bad news

Seb's car fails = all stops are put out to fix the problem, and statements from Renault are produced to look into the problem


+1 (but the silence here is deafening)


They have to defend their drivers unless it's indefensible. You could take a view here. I thought it was out of order.


It's one thing to defend their driver(s), but it's certainly another to over-protect and babysit them.

Just think of the backslapping Vettel gets whenever he retires, notably Turkey 2010 when it's widely agreed that the fault lays in Vettel's.

If it were other team bosses, they'd most probably say "unfortunate", "mistake", etc, but not the way Horner and co. does it.


Turkey 2010 was the ultimate example of this indeed. It's not debateable that SV was at fault is it? Yet look at all the cuddling he got afterwards, after calling his team mate 'loopy'.

The drivers are adults, they should not be immune to criticism. However, they will surely perform better when they feel the team completely has their back and at the end of the day that is all the team owners care about. They invest 15 muillion in their driver, so if the have to molly coddle them to maximise their investment so be it.


But good for the show. In the end neither 2011 nor 2012 Monza moves stopped the faster car. Yet they add to the race drama and the fan debates.

It's a bit fun when two drivers really dislike each other to the point of higher blood pressure when in close proximity to each other. It's been a really long time since we had a "scuffle" after a crash too. In today's P.C. world it would be nice to see some raw emotion on display once in a while. These guys are too smooth, cool and calculated. Like F18 pilots dropping bombs on targets, and heading back to base for lattes and de-brief. Just think of all the fun we had in 2007 with Alonso and Lewis.

Wonder what a list of Top 5 "politically incorrect" F1 moments would be? F1 driver related things only, no Max Mosley bits and pieces!


'Top 5 “politically incorrect” F1 moments'

I have a feeling most of those would be Senna-Prost-Mansel late 80's - early 90's..

That's probably good and bad..


Don't make a Bull angry! Especially one with pockets this deep.

I have this feeling that we're about to see a performance step from Red Bull now that we've left these power circuits behind.


Right on the money my friend!!!


'Don't make a Bull angry!'

I don't think they have the pace or the tyre management at this stage to fix it..

On a side note.. if I ever win the lottery and make an F1 team.. it shall be called 'Honey Badger'.. and you know they don't give a shit...


I'd love to sponsor 'Honey Badger'! My £2.50 is in the post.


You're already beaten to the punch. This guy...his name escapes me right now...anyhow, he won the lottery and he made a team too. Oh yes, his name is Dietrich something or rather. Ring him up when you're ready to start Honey Badger Racing, he'll sell you a team perhaps.


Interesting that it's happened three times on Vettel's car but not once on Webber's. Some difference in their driving style perhaps?


Who knows, maybe Vettel is getting a slightly different car than Webber.


There is hardly a race without kers problems for the lotus.

D'Ambro had no kers all race in Monza. Kimi's had kers issues in previous outings.

Renault please make all the parts in france and forget china and india. Merci bien.


Maybe it's the ones made in France that caused problems.


Alternator made in f/ Italy for a French Engine manufacturer ! Says it all really 🙂


I was wondering last year why the infamous reliability issues of Newey's cars didn't show up. It's happening now. They are fast but unreliable.


When a team is cruising and within it's performance envelope, things don't break.

As the others have closed up to Red Bull, or the FIA has banned their suspect technologies, they have had to push to finer and finer limits.

Hence the breakdowns.

Don't believe me? Check out any dominant team in F1 history. Once they are caught up, things break down


Can you explain what exactly could have caused engine damage when they suddenly told Vettel to shut the car off?


As Skinny said, it's about the pumps that circulate the fluids through the engine, and other systems.

Unless your road car is fairly new the power steering, oil, and water pumps are driven by a belt & pulley system run off of the engine crank. In order to reduce mechanical drag, and improve packaging those things are run electrically on race cars.


No alternator power to supply power to oil pumps, fuel pumps, punematic, water etc etc.. Any one of those failing, could cause the entire engine to seize. Gear box could seize, pistons could be thrown through the head.. It could get messy in a normal road car, if you didn't head a red light on the dash.. In an f1 car, revving at 14k+ , it could get terminal in a split second.. Both for engine and driver


Isn't it a case of the ECU dieing without power which tells the engine when and and in what order to fire? The loss of which results in what you described above.


When the alternator fails the engine will fail in less than 2 minutes due to lack of power supply. Red Bull stopped Vettel so they could save the engine, this season the can just use 8 in the 20 races.


They are leading by 29 points not 19.


This looks like an issue that might make the difference in the end. They have lost a possible 35 points due to alternator failures, but to tell u the truth reliability is a part of f1 and seeing roll bars, fuel pumps and alternators fail has brought back a bit of the drama that is f1. personally I like it, 100% reliability tells me they are not pushing the boundaries to the limit in my opinion.


Well said, unreliability is something we have grown used to not having and its loss has been to the detriment of the overall excitement of F1.

"To err is human; to not.....,"

....is not good TV.......


however, in aiming for 100% reliability, they are pushing the boundary in another direction... that is to say, playing the points game. they're gambling that a season of consistent finishes is better than first or burst... equally, if not more interesting over the long haul of 20 races.


Italian electrics in French engines?! Thats two cliches in one.

It was Italian cars that were reknowned for the reliability of the electrics wasn't it? Oh no, it was the opposite of that!


Aren't you jumping conclusions as the real cause of the problem is not yet found?



the best electrics were in british cars...


I wouldn't say the BEST electrics where in British cars, (MK2 fiesta.. out every morning after rain, with a can of WD40, dist. cap off, good spray, then you can start it), but I would say that, in general, they are better than the French road car electrics (I have a long list of woes)..

But then that doesn't give me a lot of space to argue with.. 2011 Vito, EMS fault and on limp home mode, because they attached a loom to the engine bay chassis, and the clips just cut through the loom when the engine rocked due to torque..

No manufacturer is immune to stupidity, but when it comes to electrics, and French cars.. well, we'll see how the new wave of (mostly French made) EV vheicles do after two years on the road...


You gotta be kidding me ? My Austin Ambassador's wipers would come on each time i pressed the horn button ! It came off the showroom with half of its carpet stained with oil. They were hopeless !


What electrics? =D


well, they batter off with both Button and Vettel DNF than they both finished the race.


One would think its more issues with Renault

power plant then the alternator.

Fact;Kimi Raikkonen may not be consistent but

without doubt he is the quickest on F1 grid.

Fact; Renault power plant is no match for Merc

or Ferrari power plants on the long strights.

Red Bull suffered a lot lately, the bigest one

Engine maping,they simply overloaded it to get

the desired result.

Which ever you slice it,one must give credit to

Newly for trying.


Surely, all the engines have an HP limit.. so the straight line top end speed is all down to the gear ratios, that the teams have to pick, in advance, of the season start.. so saying the ferraris, can't keep up with the mercs, would make Perez superhuman?

No, it's the gear ratios, and the Mercs of McC, and the Ferrais of Sauber, made better calls on the ratios *that would suit this race*, BUT all teams have a limit on their options..

So... still all to play for, 'cause the faster cars here might not have any more tricks to pull on the following tracks (in terms of ratios).. they might just be betting on weather and tyre wear..


Read up some more on F1 Skinny.Mercedes have a slight HP advantage in general + 20kw or 30hp in KERS. Gear ratios can be changed at different tracks. Better Engine power and torque are a big advantage on High speed circuit not just selecting the right ratios. Ferrari engined Sauber ha had good speed all year. But for Prrez to nab 2nd was an outstanding achievement from 12 anyway you look at it!


Red Bull seem to have slipt back since their engine mapping trick was bannend. Especially in qualification. Do you think this is the case or do you think something else cousing their bad form?


They no doubt slipped back a little because of that but you have to remember it's not like everybody else is standing still either.



I have a question about Alonso's problem in Q3. If there was a mechanical problem in qualifying and it was fixed after the qualifying, is there no penalty for that?


Already answered previously.

If it's to fix something broken, fine with that. Anything else you can't touch.


Not for roll bars.. I don't know the exact details, but I'm assuming that replacing a part, not specifically covered under Parc fermé, and a part that has no bearing on performance (but might under safety), is allowed..

You can't change gearing, suspension, wings, engine, fuel etc., but a broken roll bar, to be replaced with an exact replica of the part, shouldn't cause a problem..

The rules are there to stop teams altering performance of the car between qually and race.. not safety, or ability to drive... although that brings into the question of grid drops for other things.

It all seem a bit harsh for the drivers as well.. there's a fine line, and the Ferrari Internatial Assistance doesn't seem to know where it's own head is anyway.


Irrespective of the level of competetion, to have reliability issues with such a basic component as an alternator is unforgivable.

However, how much blame do you put on Renault?

There is an underlying trend here, Newey doesn't like Kers, wants tight packaging etc.

I suspect Red Bull have made certain requests to Renault regarding their requirements, and as the season has gone on, holes in floors etc, the Red Bull design requirements maybe compromising the reliability.

If it is all down to Renault, then there is nowhere to hide.


RG bailed out with an alt fault just before Vet did, in the same race (can't remember which atm, Valencia maybe?)

Both are Renault engined.

Red Bull might make things harder for Renault, in design of the car that can stress parts to the limit, but two in the one race, from different teams would swing the balance of blame back to Renault. Regardless of who made the part, it was supplied to the teams by Renault..


On the subject of car parts, James, why do you think Lotus did not use the second car to test the famous "DEVICE"?

They could have picked up some data on it, however limited. Seems a missed chance, esp if they are planning to use it in Suzuka we hear.

- After all the PR and the bodies shielding the rear wing from the cameras, and the big announcements that it's coming for Spa and Monza, then it isn't for Monza, it's for Singapore. No, hang on, not Singapore, ..etc.

- Could it be they've discovered issues that will rule it out altogether for this year

- Is it a hoax played on Kimi and us ??


I am calling the Lotus device a bluff.

They've been talking their chances up for many weeks now: We have a strong package for Hungary, we'll win in Belgium, we'll be strong in Italy...

The DDRS threat is a means to scare the leading teams into changing their race strategies: Lotus will have a straight line speed advantage, let's take some wing off our cars so we won't get overtaken... etc.

And considering they weren't even prepared to put it on D'Ambrosio's car for Monza, shows they have nothing. It's smoke and mirrors.


I do not understand why Webber retired, surely he could fit another set of tyres?


+1 on the above reply comments.

Gotta think of the bigger picture, Mick.


OK so I guess that Christian Horner's statement that it was for safety is something to do with not getting penalised at the next race?


I think by the time he got to pit entry he was P13. He was not going to score anypoint so may as well save engine life.


Retired after spin, no chance of scoring points after a new set of tyres, so no point on risking damage to car. Considering that his team mate had to stop to avoid engine failure, due to alt failure, there was no point in pushing it and risking an engine, considering that he was probably fitted with an alt from the same batch that Vet had.. it was the sensible call, to avoid grid drop if they had a failure in practice or qually next race.. now they can strip it out and put a new alt in without a grid penality, and without replacing an engine, which you be a grid drop at any time.


I think it was Silverstone 2010 when Red Bull brought only two new spec front wings. Vettel damaged his front wing prior to the race so Red Bull decided that Vettel would get to race with the new spec front wing from Marks car, hence the phrase 'Not bad for a number 2 driver' at the end of the race when Mark won.

It has happened again at Monza as Mark was using an older batch alternater. I would not mind betting it ends up on Vettel's car in Singapore.

Ha Ha Red Bull, that is what happens when you put all your eggs in the one basket. Ha Ha.


A few peripheral questions for anyone in the know:

How much power is an F1 alternator worth when engaged? Is engagement a factor of battery amperage or throttle position? Is the alternator's engagement subject to whether the driver is demanding power to the wheels, for example on a straight? Can teams rely on KERS to charge to the car's battery when they use up the 6 second allotment, thereby minimizing the alternator's load on the engine?


...everything you ever wanted to know about Renault alternators, courtesy of Scarbs http://scarbsf1.com/blog1/2012/06/28/renault-european-gp-alternator-failures/#more-2796


Dear RB Racing.

I have a second hand alternator from a Renault Megane - usad some 200 000 miles (300 000 km) and it works "as good as new"

For further inquiries please contact JA - who has got my e-mail.


James I'm surprised that Renault haven't Improved their KERS system by now. They've had since 2009 and they will be under big pressure in 2014 for the ERS which will take it to another level. Do you think Mercedes will have a bigger advantage as they appear to be well ahead with existing engines/ KERS.


James do you think Renault hedged that KERS wouldn't be in the sport two years after 2009?

They didn't make any progress in 2010 on KERS. Webbers was especially buggy on starts.

Red Bull then developed their own in 2011 I think.

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