Feb 28th is lock down day for F1 engines, but will Renault be able to lobby for changes?
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Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Feb 2014   |  2:13 pm GMT  |  177 comments

Tomorrow, February 28th, is the deadline for the new hybrid turbo F1 power units to be homologated. This means that the engine makers, Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault have to send the FIA a sample engine and the specification of this engine and Energy Recovery System is then fixed for the season.

It is clear from the testing so far that Mercedes and Ferrari are in a position to do this, but Renault has been playing catch up after suffering a range of problems with the energy storage side of its power unit.

So what will happen next? Will Renault be allowed to make changes to its power unit after the homologation deadline and how does the process work?


How homologation works
On Friday February 28th the engine manufacturers have to place a sample power unit, comprising an engine, battery, motor generator units, in a box together with a disc containing all the drawings of the power unit components. This is then sealed by the FIA and taken away. At any stage of the season they can take out the unit and the drawings and request any engine from the race pool of any team and compare it with what is in the box.

If they don’t match then there are severe penalties.

What happens if there is a problem with the power unit at the time of homologation?
If a manufacturer has a reliability problem, he can apply to the FIA to make some changes. This can also be done on cost grounds, to avoid a situation where a greedy supplier starts charging double for a component, knowing that it’s part of what is sealed in the FIA box.

If there is a reliability issue, the manufacturer writes to the FIA highlighting the problem and specifying the fix it would like to carry out. It has to prove that this fix does not enhance the performance. The FIA considers it and if satisfied, writes to the other manufacturers requesting their permission for the change. The other manufacturers have five days to reply.

It’s likely with such a complex new technology that all three manufacturers will take the opportunity to apply for reliability fixes, even the ones that are covering thousands of kilometres at the moment.

If one of the power trains is performing significantly worse than the others, can the manufacturrer apply for a performance upgrade?
Not in principle. However if that situation arises it is clearly not in the interests of the sport so some common sense needs to be applied. The rule makers looked at this and pre-empted it in some ways; they decided that all manufacturers should be allowed to make a small number of performance upgrades after one year, so the engines will be re-homologated this time next year. And in 2016 there will be a smaller list of areas where they can make further performance steps.

The spirit of this rule (rather like any innovation in chassis design a team introduces which others cannot copy) is that if one manufacturer has the edge he should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of his hard work for a season, but then the others will be allowed to close up next season. But if there is one manufacturer lagging behind, then what happens?


The question then arises, could a powerful lobby, for example comprising Renault powered teams, persuade the FIA to let them make performance steps DURING this season in the interests of the sport, if they were behind?

There are precedents for this. In 2008/9 Renault and Honda both applied for such a dispensation. The V8 engines had been introduced a grew years earlier and Renault won the 2006 world championship with Fernando Alonso, but for 2007 the rev limit was dropped to 19,000rpm and Renault and Honda became less competitive. In 2008 a further drop to 18,000rpm and a new rule saying that for 2009, in addition to introducing KERS, drivers could each have a maximum of 8 engines per season meant that they were both down on power.

Honda pulled out of F1, but Renault got its dispensation and was allowed to make some performance changes.

This week in the final Bahrain test we will see how Renault is doing at fixing its problems and we will get a better idea of how its performance compares with Mercedes and Ferrari when the engine runs at full power.

And we’ll see where we go from there…

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1

Is it specified in F1 regulations that fuel must be “benzine” or we will see the efficiency and not performance based F1 following the World Touring Car Championship lead and going diesel ?

2

The only problem I see if Renault is not able to lobby and if their motor is really so much worse than the others they will not be able to stay in F1 becaue they will soon have no customer/partner any more.

3

I thought it’s rather unfair as Renault did not get it right. All engine manufacturers had the same deadline. What a loss of face at Red Bull and Renault. This reminds me of last year when Ferrari, Force India and Lotus got their tires right and some teams didn’t so it became dangerous with the exploding rubber.

Personally I feel allowing Renault the so called extra time is definitely not a fair stance. Win some lose some.

4

Great article James, thanks for the info.

5

A lot of the homologation was insisted on by Renault and they threatened to pull out if these requests were not included in the regs. So now they got them in, surely Renault must live with it. You can’t have your cake and eat it……Renault should have worked harder, if reports are to be believed Renault had around half the staff on the project as Merc so it’s their own fault. I think Renault should be made to suffer for at least half the season. If they threaten to leave make them pay through the nose to break contract, plus they will have waisted the R&D time and money so they won’t pull out, they will just make lots of noise about it to try and get their own way. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Sorry for the cliches but they fit the situation perfectly.

6

Rob White wrote the document for the homologation process, approved by all the others and the FIA

7

As a huge RBR fan this situation really puts me in a bind. I want them to be competitive and fight close with the top teams, but at the same time Renault screwed it up (maybe Red Bull too with the design of their car).

Just the same way Ferrari hasn’t given Alonso competitive cars aerodynamically (to Red Bull). That doesn’t mean you suddenly just give Ferrari tons more tunnel time, testing and such to fix it.

As much as it pains me to say this: Why shouldn’t Mercedes and Ferrari enjoy the fruits of their labor like Red Bull has in the clever evolution of a sound design?

8

Whilst I would not be averse to seeing[Vettel-mod]walking back to the pits on a regular basis (think it is going to happen at first regardless), something has to give. The sport and overall even rival teams gain no real benefit from a third or so of them not being remotely able to compete.

An extension until five days after Malaysia is where I think it will end up.

9

Hi All,

AB over on the BBC FI page just posted this which I feel makes fr interesting reading and perhaps carries more weight when viewed against this discussion…

“It’s fair to say Renault’s request for an extension to the engine homologation deadline has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest. It’s a very controversial thing to request, for two reasons – 1) these engine rules are effectively only in F1 because Renault wanted them and threatened to quit if they were not introduced; 2) the manufacturers have already had an extra year to develop the engines, after the initial date for the introduction of hybrid turbos was pushed back from 2013. Renault want an extra two months of development before specs are frozen, by the way.

10

Not going to get an even/sensible discussion on this, purely because Renault supply engines to Red Bull and esp SV!!

If Renault are given the time and Red Bull dominate, the people who post sensibly on JA will once again be outnumbered by SV haters and lovers.

11

Very simple answer here just move the homologation deadline back to 30 april for Everyone. Gives Renault a chance to ‘fix’ their problems and the others to continue development. This way we dont have breakdowns all year and all teams that were reliable continue to benefit.

12

So when Renault are allowed to make changes later in the year, will this be referred to as homoloGate???

13

it seems to me that the fia has lumbered itself with a bad set of rules regarding engine homologation.

it’s not true that each manufactuer has had an equal opportunity to develop the new f1 engines.

maranello, brixworth and viry are not comparable organisations. each company is a unique entity with its own strengths and weaknesses. in other words it’s not a level playing field. anyone who says otherwise is a fool.

the original intent of the new engine rules was to make f1 more road-car relevant and to feed new technological innovations back into road cars.

to freeze engine homologation at february 2014 was a bad idea. bad rules deserve to be changed. the new engines need to be developed in a real world situation i.e in an f1 chassis preferably under race conditions. after all no car manufacturer would ever release a new model car without rigorous real world prototyping. the new rules should have been partially open ended to see what happens over the course of the 2014 season. i think that the rules regarding how many ‘power unit’ sub assemblies can be used over a season will need adjusting. the electronic sub assemblies will ultimately prove to be more reliable than the motor and turbo units.

f1 desperately needs a full field of competitive cars. as it stands the engine rules prevent that from happening. that needs to change.

anyone who thinks that lotus, caterham, toro rosso and red bull trolling around at the back of the field is good for f1 isn’t thinking straight.

14

Red bull put everything into development to win last year meaning there behind with development this year not just renaults problem.If bernie got is way 3 races with double points, fia giving dispensation to develope after 28th deadline,three race wins at end of season would be a championship boost 150 points well engineered red bull !!!

15

So the entire idea of this new change in F1 was to make the racing closer but by the looks of it now it has never been further apart. The FIA will let Renault make changes because if they don’t your going to have no less than 10 cars (8 renults + marussias) they arn’t going to finish the race due to reliability and also struggle to get out of Q1. The FIA and F1 have a serious problem at the moment with all these cars going to Melbourne soon without even being able to get a handful of laps together without braking down.

16

James,

I’ve read comments from Renault referring to software changes on the power units fixing some of the problems the teams have been having.

Does the homologation process include the software too? I would imagine if not, this still gives significant scope to improve things once they have the basic stability sorted.

17

I think to make it fair, every manufacturer should be allowed the same number of engine upgrades per year e.g. 3, whether it is on reliability, performance and/or efficiency grounds (no questions asked). This simplifies the process for the FIA and the teams as well.

It would be simply unfair to allow one engine manufacturer to effectively work longer on improving their engine and then bypass a deadline and probably gain an advantage (or nullify a disadvantage) while others have effectively stopped developing theirs.

So Renault could bring an upgrade for the second or third race of the season, whereas Mercedes or Ferrari could bring one at the beginning of the European season or later.

As engine makers will be gathering a lot of data over the course of the year and better understand their engine, they should be given the opportunity to bring improvements to their engine during the year to give us better racing. Why is just aero development allowed during the year (though it has resource/usage restrictions)?

18

I think the answer is simple. The fairest thing would be to postpone the homologation for all of the engine suppliers. This way no one gets preferential treatment and if Mercedes and Ferrari just happened to find a bit more performance whilst Renault find their reliability, so be it. The status quo is preserved. But the new date has to be absolute, agreed by the 3 teams and that is it, no second chances.

19

Surely this is against the nature of the sport? Was Cosworth given special treatment because they were constantly behind (vastly) in spec compared to the others? Why should Renault be given this? All the engine manufacturers were told of the switchover at the same time, they’ve all had plenty of time to make their preparations. If one global engine manufacturer – with all the resources and expertise one can afford on this planet – cannot adjust to the new regulations, then that’s their problem.

20

The Cosworth was never behind… it had just as much power as the other engines and I think it had the second-best fuel consumption value (behind the Renault).

The problems were with the cars it was installed in.

21

Not even having KERS in some of them.

22

Wow, most commenters here seem not to have read the article. Or if they read it they failed to understand it.

The rules most emphatically do NOT prohibit engine changes after homologation. In fact they specifically make allowance for changes.

The assumption that the Renault engine needs performance fixes rather than reliability fixes is wishful thinking on the part of some people.

23

“with all the resources and expertise one can afford on this planet”

Trust me, they are far from that… that would mean, for a start, fully integrating engine and chassis development (still can’t understand how newey/redbull let them get away with it… I would be on their case from day one to make sure the engine turned out as I wanted).

In 1982/83, when Macca was being brought from the ashes by Ron, they needed turbo power. they paid porsche, to give them an engine according to designer Gordon Murray’s specs. That did they get? The most powerful and efficient turbo engine for 84-85. Honda surpassed them in 86 and after.

Also, when RBR was choosing between the different engines, newey really wanted the renault V8… why? I believe not for outright power, but other characteristics of the engine (fuel consumption and cooling needs, i believe), made it the best for him to design his aero wonder car…

24

The only reason renult are so far behind is because they have spent to long keeping red bull happy and Pilling too many resources into last year’s tittle challenge. They deserve to have a year on the the back foot.

25
dimitar kadrinski

This has been mentioned a lot of times in this comments. I can not understand how can you claim this, when the last years engines were frozen for development long time ago and no engine supplier could have altered anything on them (including engine mapping). So how could RB have spoiled Renault with their title fight last year is very hard for me to understand.

26

You my friend obviously don’t understand the structure of renult racing. There are renult engineers in the garage of red bull there are also data collectors,data analysts and not just there but in the garages of all renult team’s. These resources where put in to play when red bull were struggling in the middle of last season, between red bull and renult working flat out to produce a winning car. Don’t take my word for it read this quote from Mr.wolff

Mercedes suspects Red Bull, Lotus F1 form down to Renault

By Jonathan Noble Monday, October 14th 2013, 08:39 GMT

Renault F1 2013

Mercedes suspects that clever engine mapping from Renault could be behind Red Bull and Lotus’ recent upturn in performance in Formula 1.

With Mercedes’ title hopes having evaporated thanks to Sebastian Vettel’s five consecutive victories, the German car manufacturer has its own theory as to why its challenge has faded.

Renault-powered teams have locked out the podium for the past two races, and Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff thinks Red Bull and Lotus could be benefitting from advanced mapping settings and exhaust flow control.

When asked by AUTOSPORT about the current form, Wolff said: “I think what you can see is that Red Bull from Singapore onwards looked like having made a big step forward, and then in Korea the Lotus made a big step forward of 0.2-0.4 seconds.

“The question we need to look at is what they do in terms of engine mapping maybe.

“Is there something there? The blowing strategy maybe?

“In terms of development over the last races, we seem to be behind. Is it because there is something we don’t understand in terms of mechanical set up?

“Or did first Red Bull and then Lotus do something which is related to engine strategy?”

Wolff says getting to the bottom of why Red Bull and Lotus’ form has improved is vital for his outfit if it is going to finish second in the constructors’ championship.

But he admits the team will have a tough decision to take if they feel they need to respond because it could mean pulling some resources back from the 2014 project.

Nico Rosberg F1 Mercedes 2013

“There are three points to look at,” he said. “First, did we miss something and if so, why?

“Second, we need to balance the resources right in terms of 2014 versus 2013.

“Then third we have to be looking at finishing second in the championship.

“That is our target and we can’t let that go.”

Renault has been at the forefront of sophisticated engine mapping over recent years to improve driveability.

The legal use of engine cylinder cutting and exhaust blowing to the floor area to help in its quest has often wrongly been interpreted as evidence of traction control.

27

A massive own goal by Renault – it’s lucky they’re not competing with Ferrari or Mercedes with their road cars.

Renault; not a good look and someone will be fired for this I’m sure.

28

“someone will be fired for this I’m sure”

Whether it’s fair to blame him or not I’m betting $5 that it ends up being Renault Sport F1′s Deputy Managing Director Rob White.

29

True enough about the road cars statement – mind you, Ferrari’s 458 kept bursting into flames if I remember correctly……………..certainly not a good look when your prized 458 has been incinerated!

30

The 458 kept bursting into flames because of insulation issues near the exhausts. Ferrari changed a glue supplier or something and not a single one has burnt since.

31

I hope the Ferrari customers whose 458’s were incinerated got a free replacement!

32
dimitar kadrinski

yes SINCE…. lets just forget about the BEFORE times… 🙂

33

Interesting… what about Honda in 2016?

Will they be able to have more upgrades than others (as it will be after their first year in F1… well, in “new” F1)

34

Hi James,

I’d like to know if the new brake-by-wire electronics is included as “part of the engine spec”, and hence fixed, or can it be developed throughout the season?

Also, do the engine suppliers provide the code for this, or is it the teams themselves that code the brake-by-wire systems?

(I’m very unclear what can and can’t be done in this area this year, as everyone is talking about re-coding everything at the tests, so I assume it can’t be part of the standard ECU).

35

Because it’s related to the K-ERS, it’s likely a combination of McLaren ECU and manufacturer PU developments.

36

I don’t wish any bad luck on Lotus, but I would not be too disappointed if RBR was unable to finish a race this year.

37
Dimitar Kadrinski

This all reminds me of the USA GP and the Michelin screw up…. It was not allowed then… it should not be now.

But then again it is F1 and allowing this will be accepted as well as the double points race(s), just watch!

38

You’re not the first to raise this, but it was a different situation.

Renault are clearly having performance / reliability problems: The teams can race, it’s just they’ll likely not get very far and even less likely win.

Michelin on the other hand advised their teams not to race on safety grounds.

But still, being the disaster that that was, the FIA tried everything they could to find a solution – even going so far as to suggest the drivers slow down on the final turn or drive through the pits every lap – but they couldn’t come to an agreement.

Here the solution is simple: Let Renault fix the problem – easy to say, but then those pesky rules get in the way.

Many have made arguments for and against, but I think it basically boils down to this:

Rules are black and white, but reality is not.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

39
dimitar kadrinski

I see your point.

However, thinking about it a bit more (the Renault problems) it is not connected to the engine itself (from what I read everywhere) it is more like a battery pack, electrical, software issue. They surely can swap batteries during the season or run as many software updates as they wish… or can they?

Is the freeze only on mechanical side of the power unit or does it include the software side as well? any one more informed?

40

I can’t say I’m more informed, but if how I understand it is right then the freeze is not on the “engine” per se, it’s on the entire “power unit”, which is a new concept.

I’m not entirely sure what they can change and what they can’t within the power unit, but you might be right about software / battery upgrades being okay.

Even so, the problems they have might be a bit more involved than just that.

41

In 2013, changing the tyres post Silverstone appeared to give Red Bull an advantage and the championship, although of course it wasn’t that black and white. If Renault are allowed to upgrade their engines half way through 2014, we could be looking at the same result.

Honda obviously isn’t affected by this engine freeze, so doesn’t it give them a big advantage for 2015?

42

Not really because they won’t have engines running on track at every 2014 race, gathering data. They have to join in year 2 when the others are able to upgrade based on their learnings

43

out of interest are Honda under the same testing restrictions in 2014 as the others or could they run their 2015 engine round suzuka constantly?

44

Well, track testing ‘in a F1 car’…

Did anyone get to the bottom of that strange looking FXX Mule running around Fiorano with the turbo sound?

45

James

You mean, the rules forbid track testing with an F1 car, yes?

What’s to stop honda to put the engine in another chassis or even a prototype “roadcar” development chassis and test the engine this way?

(actually, I think merc and ferrari might as well done that… not so sure if renault could do it)

46

No the rules forbid track testing

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