New Lotus F1 car finally gets going, but how far behind are the Renault powered teams?
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Feb 2014   |  4:47 pm GMT  |  276 comments

The Lotus E22, the final car to hit the track in this pre season build up, should finally get a run out today at Jerez, Spain. It is due to be given a shakedown in preparation for the crucial Bahrain tests starting in a couple of weeks.

Pastor Maldonado will drive the car and he tweeted, “Finally back to the track work, planing a filming day in Jerez today. Looking forward to drive the new E22.”

Lotus elected to skip the Jerez group test last week, which in retrospect looks like a reasonable plan given the troubles that Renault powered teams encountered. Most severe was the Red Bull team, which managed only 21 laps of running.

The buzz among F1 teams and insiders is all around how long it will take for Renault to fix the problems, which they encountered with their new hybrid engine when installed in cars.

The engine had undergone testing on dynamometers, but a variety of problems including electrical energy issues, turbo management and cooling issues on some cars, notably the Red Bull, have put them on the back foot; problems concerning the control and operation of the various sub-systems of the power unit within the car. Renault produced some short term fixes in Jerez and promised a more definitive fix for the Bahrain tests, but it’s clear that they have lost time and are continuing to lose time, relative to the opposition.

As McLaren showed vividly last season, losing time at the start of the year is a dangerous game because the other teams move forward at such a pace, you cannot catch up. Even a well resourced team like McLaren stood little chance of making up lost ground.

Estimates of how far Renault are behind range from two months to six months. If it’s the former then they can fix their problems and the leading teams like Red Bull might have a chance of clawing back points, especially with their ability to develop on the aero side and their strong track record in the second half of F1 seasons.

But if it’s more like six months, then the season is lost. This would also be a blow for the other Renault customer teams, Lotus, Caterham and Toro Rosso in their respective midfield and tail of the field battles.

So the onus is on the Mercedes and Ferrari powered cars to get a strong start to the year and rack up the early points.

Early indications are that among the Mercedes powered teams, Williams are set for a much stronger season, McLaren has a better car, albeit with some question marks around the rear end aerodynamics, while all eyes will be on Force India in Bahrain as they did not cover as much ground as the others in Jerez.

Mercedes appear the favourites, but are unwilling to even discuss that notion, preferring to focus on developing their car and seeing where they are in Melbourne and Sepang, the first two races of the season.

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Re Renault track running time, rules wise Renault have exhausted 2 days with 100km each day of track time with one out of their 4 teams so they still have 6 days with 100km each of track time with the other 3 teams that is apart from the official group tests. On these 2 days with 100km each of track time they netted something like 105km out of 200km at their disposal, and all this while claiming their problems are now solved, to me it looks like their problems are far from being solved and they are still giving spins about their problems like they were doing from after their first attempted run with the RB10.


I think that renault will get their act together. It seems like a general flaw in the power train rather than the teams designs.however,loosing a full test session will hurt them,they will be on their back foot for a few weeks. The racing should be close this year as even with the tweeks to the aero and fuel limit,i think it will still come down to reliability and the boogy word TYRES. Remember how close the teams and drivers appeared, it was only after silverstone that redbull could use the full package.up until that point they could not run with major down force and air pressure,they just killed their rubber but once the tyres toughened up we lost our season. Lets hope rules dont get changed mid stream again,it really did fubar the other teams that ran to the specs. I have a major interest in my red team but i do think that merc will have the edge at first. I am banking on the two world champions driving through these major changes. Credit due to lewis and seb but they just have not ever been through a large shakeup of the rules. Experiance will show its head this year


I don’t suppose Lotus did much that Mercedes did not do when doing their ‘filming’ at Silverstone a couple of days before the Jerez test. The presence of Renault engineers would be inevitable and because Mercedes build their own engine their engine team would have been there too. Renault would have to be on hand to ensure that the engine at least ran well enough to do a few laps or it would not have been worth trekking all the way to Spain when Silverstone was just round the corner for Lotus! The very existence of the ‘filming and promotional days’ is such a potentially contentious issue that it would be far better to allow a couple of limited test days which some teams might use to solve urgent technical or safety issues eg the recent Williams escaping wheel problems and yes why not allow a bit of engine fettling too. Retain the 100KM limit perhaps but removing restrictions would mean that no one need be accused of ‘cheating’. There will be plenty of scope for that at the race meetings!


Hi James,

I was on another website today where there are reports that the Lotus test was not in the spirit of the rules for a promotional event.

Could you comment on it?

Please see link for the item in question:


i have read that lotus’ second filming day comprised of total number of laps permitted without any problems. maybe it is all solved after all?


Hi James,

Have there been access to telemetry data for the 1st testing in Jerez?

1) Did the teams spin engines up to 15t RPM? there was a highlight that powertrains haven’t been charged upto 100% (perhaps this issue refers to ERS?),

2) Not sure about cornering but is the braking capacity as powerful as last year? i.e. roughly 5g.



Agree that if the Renault problems are not solved before Melbourne the effected 8 cars will impact badly on F1.


There must be millions of F1 fans out there who, like me need to know how Renault are doing with their power train problems.? Only Vettel [mods] are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of RBR having no engine with which to compete. Us real F1 fans do not want to see one third of the cars without a competitive power train. I am astonished that there is so little reporting on this serious issue.!!


Reply from on the page (brake by wire) “ok will pass that on, James Allen 9th 1.35pm”.

On returning to this page this morning yet again another post disappears. So please you can pass this on too.


The rules mandate ERS to augment the IC engine power by a maximum 161 hp for 33.3 seconds per lap or any combination of that output and time per lap.

In qualifying the need to conserve fuel does not apply, meaning drivers will be flat-out, but as they can only recover HALF as much energy per lap as they can use drivers will not be able to do two laps with full electric power boost.

“Full boost” can be can be sustained for one to two laps but it cannot be maintained.

If one uses more fuel or more electric energy than one will have to recover afterwards.


Thank you sunny for your informed reply, it was my impression we would see available system energy below what was required to run at “full boost” as you say. This leads me to believe 2014 is going to be an Energy formula race. With direct injection the IC elements should be very similar in fuel efficiency. Heat becomes the variable; who can hold and harvest the most heat without a meltdown. How do you use the heat, spin up the turbo to make the car more drivable or accept the lag and use the heat to drive the rear wheels?


Mr. Allen – haven’t read this elsewhere so will venture the question here. If the rules allow 33 sec. of ERS per lap to propel the car will everyone on the grid be able to Harvest a surplus of energy each lap from the available Kinetic and Thermic energy? Qualifying looks to remain a speed contest at least.


As I understand it the MGU-K and MGU-H are constantly harvesting energy as the car makes it’s way around the track, and then the ECU automatically decides when and where to utilise that energy – no magic button required – so in theory the battery is never going to be full enough to have to worry about a surplus.

I don’t think the rules say only 33 seconds of boost allowed, it’s more an estimate of the average duration it will be deployed for around any given circuit; different engine modes might allow for more power but less duration and vice versa.

As always if I’m wrong about any of that then I’m sure someone will let us know 😉


Power unit homologation, Unless there is a new updated version which I missed the FIA engine freezing/homologation and development plan are as follows.

8% of power unit components by 2015, 23% in 2016, 33% in 2018, and 95% in 2019.


Except that by 2019 they’ll change their minds again and we’ll have a whole new formula…again.



Are Lotus/Renault having more luck today.?



Is there any detail on how the filming day went? How many laps etc. Good to know if the car ran trouble free or not.



One lap apparently


Interesting Question Chris A. – with the Lotus Film day halfway between the end of Jerez and Bahrain it would seem opportune for Renault to learn more.

Were Lotus limited to a single lap by rules, reliability, weather or something else? Interesting they went to Jerez. If planning to run just one lap it would seem more natural for financial reasons to stay local.

Alberto Martínez


Only 1 lap seems pretty bad for Lotus. When you say 1 lap are you taking into account “installation laps”(out then pits) or only “complete laps”?

On the other hand, in Spain a very important F1 reporter claims that Lotus drove several laps without problems and an Italian media (ommicorse) reports that Renault has asked Lotus to share/explain details on the instalation of their power unit on the E22 so that this information could be used for the other Renault teams (RB, Toro Rosso, Caterham). That last one seems really odd to me.

Could you share a little more information on this mess? Thanks a lot.


They might have done better on the second day.


That’s all I know


Was this due to engine problems?


I guess we will have a better picture after Bahrain, but I’m not about to rule Renault out just yet. They may even have solutions that return them ahead of the Mercs & Ferrari. We have not seen any single teams true speed yet. If they solve their problems it could well be a rocket. I just find it interesting that the manufacturer teams went for a similar design cars- especially at the front. Right now my feeling is that the Ferrari is a great package – especially with the drivers it has, and we saw how quickly both got comfortable with the car.

I really doubt Red Bull will hold ground for 6 months relative to their opponents regardless, if they are in the top7 teams they can still win the championship given the uncertainty of the cars. The last 4 years have shown us what they are capable of that includes working very well with Renault in tuning engines etc for their specific purposes.

I just love the idea that we will have drivers / teams starting at similar positions without any real advantages and see how the season develops. I’m not prepared to rule out Magnussen winning the WDC even if something tells me its a Ferrari year with a particular “lucky” 7 driver.


G’day James, on they are reporting Honda has set up shop in Milton Keynes, isn’t that where RBR are based also? You think there could be more to that or is it just a coincidence at this stage? I’m sure with the Renault problems, RBR would not be too upset to know Honda is in the neighbourhood.


No, it’s just a very good central spot for logistics, close to Heathrow and the motorway network etc


I would imagine it makes the poaching of staff easier as well.


They seem to have a thing for caravans at Lotus…


James, would I be right in thinking that teams rent their engines rather than purchase, if say Williams, would that include engine men at the factory and races from Mercedes ?




Lets c wat Force India does dis time..

they have hulkenberg& perez.. now let’s c how d car works..


Someone learning English from Hamilton’s tweets?


We needed a change anyway. RB has had too much success that it was actually harming F1’s audience figures and would only do more damaged if they’d continued. It’s a circus that needs bums on seats… The double points nonsense must concern teams though since it gives RB et al the chance to catch up later when they overcome their issues and that is unafir on the other teams. But since when was F1 about fairness? So go for it! Mix it up! Make it squeal!


This has Richard III written all over it. Vettel is powerless against the multitude of Mercedes teams. Basically, he is Toast*.

This is the year of the Fox. I expect a battle between Alonso, Rosberg and Button.

(*) Renault sure can’t charge money from their customer teams as they failed to deliver a properly working power unit?


I expect a battle between Alonso, Rosberg and Button….

Ok, I’ll bite! Rosberg has never beaten Hamilton when they have been teammates before (in any category of racing), what makes you think he will start now?


The Brake by Wire system doesn’t sound too good for a brake sensitive driver as Lewis … I hope I’m wrong as I am a big fan of his spectacular driving style.

I put Rosberg up there as he keeps surprising me. He was a great match to Hamilton in 2013. He seems to be the more consistent one. This could be an asset in 2014, when mechanical failures are more likely to happen.

Ah, and one more thing. Rosberg is driving the #6 car this year … he needs to beat his team mate for that 😉


Its a team sport, all elements have to come together. RBR racing may at this stage have an issue with the engine, but its still the best team. They have been able to develop a car better than the

other teams.

Mercedes and Ferrari may have and edge at moment but will they take full advantage of that and get a good headstart? With both of them having very competent drivers, chances are that will only steal points from each other. So RBR may still pick up the drivers championship, but loose the constructors.


There is no indication to say that currently RB have built a better car than Mercedes, Ferrari or McLaren.


Agree, and the Bull is certainly less reliable at the moment!


Sounds like you’re counting out Ricciardo already.


Yeah, a bit harsh to count out Dan, agreed…………having said that Random, Bull do have an unfortunate history of unreliability and pit stop gaffes with Australian drivers……………let’s hope they can find parity for Daniel otherwise that beaming smile may become a drooping frown…….


That Ferrari fuel economy and cooling package is something special. Their cooling package which allegedly involves fuel flow allows for smaller side pods and greater airflow to the back of the car and thus allowing a lower nose which generates a bit extra front downforce. For me Ferrari are favorites. They have the best driver line up, they have a windtunnel in sync with on track development again. A strong technical team, an unlimited budget. Constructors champions surely.


“They have the best driver line up”

That’s debatable…


If we go by 2013 and 2012 points finishes, Ferrari have the best line up. If we go by WDCs also, they are still the best as both their drivers won it unlike other teams’. The rest are all opinions/speculations.


Yes the ferrari’s small radiators look like a major advantage/innovation, presumably intercooling with liquid not air. What fuel economy, did I miss a memo?


“What fuel economy, did I miss a memo?”

Yes, it’s filed under “Speculation”.


Possibly Richard, but Ferrari’s operational efficiency isn’t as good as it should be, which could hinder them. Remember Monza last year, Seb pitted for fresh tyres and was going a second a lap quicker, yet they left Fernando out with old worn tyres, going slower? Ferrari need to be more street wise and savvy when it comes to strategical decisions. If they can do, then I’m sure they’ll do well. If they can do…….


When you have more performance than the cars around you, a team tends to look good on strategy… Ross Brawn’s strategic mastery to a large part was due to the characteristics of the tyres (Goodyear vs Bridgestone and Bridgestone vs Michelin).

In Monza Autosport reported that Alonso questioned the teams call, thinking back to Monaco 2012 when the possibility of a race win may have been lost.

Bad calls, such as Abu Dhabi 2010, are rare from any of the teams in normal conditions. Rain and safety cars can give the strategy simulations some pain though.


Thanks for the insight Martin. You’d have to say that Ferrari’s strategy decision at Abu Dhabi was a right stinker, and cost Fernando 2010 WDC. It is easy to criticise with the benefit of hindsight, but it remains that that Bull and Macca stayed out longer at Abu Dhabi and finsihed 1-2-3 with Seb, Lewis and Jenson. Ferrari got it badly wrong, but Macca and Bull got it spot on in a pressure situation. You are right though: safety cars tend to make teams mess up big time. Twas ever thus………….


And that’s not even mentioning Malaysia.


Aren’t the power units being homolagated soon? Where does that leave Renault if they are “6 months behind”?


End of this month

In difficulty, although they can change things for reliability and safety and that’s a bit of a catch all


Seriously just 1 lap? Any rumours on what the problem was?


What is to stop a company like Porsche coming in to F1 in a few years’ time, taking advantage of new technology to develop a more efficient engine? The other engine manufacturers will not be allowed to match it because their engine designs are already locked down.

Isn’t this just a recipe for an uncompetitive race series?


A good point James.

As yet we do not really know what Renault’s problems are – except for vibration causing electrical issues.

If only Renault are having vibrations issues they must be doing something different. With so much of the engine parameters fixed – 6 cylinders, angle of V etc it would be interesting to see what they have done differently.

It occurred to me that the firing order and angle between each piston reaching TDC is not fixed. If this is where the difference lies I can imagine it could take a long time to fix. This could still be a change allowed for reliability so could we see a B spec Renault engine appear over the summer?

It would be really good if we could have a techie perspective on this.


OK, James. Friday has come and gone. What happened?


Thank you.



They managed one lap

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