Renault ‘A month behind’, but has new engines – Newey downbeat on title chances
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Apr 2014   |  10:11 am GMT  |  90 comments

Renault’s Remi Taffin has said that the French manufacturer is a month behind its rival Mercedes, with Red Bull Racing’s Adrian Newey adding that, as a result, it will be “extremely difficult” for his team to catch Mercedes before it’s too late to save the championship.

“We can clearly see that we are something like a month behind, ” said Taffin in the Bahrain paddock yesterday. “During the winter I would say (we were) a month or two (behind).

“We really need to focus on this,” he added. “Obviously the fact that we have these back-to-back races is not that easy. Having three days to prepare the next race is very difficult.

“I think we are managing the situation well and we can clearly see the progress on track. But there is a long way to go.”

Asked about the pressure he and Renault are getting from Red Bull, Taffin said: “I have to be honest; there is a lot of pressure.

“But it’s not like either one is putting pressure on the other, we are working like a team, it’s just that when you are in F1 there is always pressure; you are there to win and you can’t stand losing.

“We have won so much, we know how to win. It’s frustrating when you are just missing this and this.”

Taffin confirmed that Renault has brought new V6 power units to this race for two of its teams – Red Bull and Toro Rosso.

Although all F1 power units were homologated in February and since then performance developments have not allowed, fixes for reliability are permitted and the new Renault units feature a new shaft in the Motor Generator Unit K, which harvests energy from the brakes as well as a new oil system for the turbo and stronger exhaust.

Red Bull’s technical leader Adrian Newey said that they are still some way off the pace: “From a performance point of view we’re clearly giving a lot away on the straights still. But there’s a lot of development to be had.”

Mercedes was 1.1 seconds faster than Red Bull in the qualifying simulations during yesterday’s Free Practice 2 in Bahrain. When pressed on whether he felt that Red Bull and Renault would be able to catch Mercedes before it is too late to compete for the championship Newey said: “I think it’s going to be extremely difficult is the honest truth,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “The gap we have is buried in the power unit and it’s difficult for us to get on top of that quickly.

“We can try to do our side on the chassis but then we rely on our partners Renault do their side on the power unit. We can see where we are strong and weak. We are competitive in the corners but lacking on the straights.

“I’ve been in the sport for many years and I’ve been through the peaks and troughs. This is part of the cycle.

“When we were winning I always maintained that you don’t stay on top for ever and that has been the case.”

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Taffin confirmed Renault has brought new V6 power units to this race for two of its teams. These are Red Bull and Toro Rosso.

Are Caterham and Lotus paying less? I would be pretty livid that only cars with a bull on their paintwork were getting these upgrades. Is this usual, James, or might Renault be looking like they have two less customers by the end of the season?


I read in a article, that Redbull sent 2 teams of engineers to Renault to work on the power units.

1 from Toro Rosso and one from Redbull, if the other team fid not contribute then they should not get the technology that was developed.


Do they still have a 12000rpm limit? What is the real reason for this?


15000 limit, they actually reach 12000 because of the fuel flow regs. ie max fuel is at 10,500, after which the fuel flow stays the same, so each power stroke gets less fuel at higher revs.

the limit is about safety and cost saving, higher revs is higher stress, therefore requires exotic (expensive) material to withstand the stress.

Revs now would allow the teams to go back to cam/spring driven valves, but they are more complicated and less reliable than pneumatic valves.

Pneumatic valves limit the distance an f1 car can travel. They only carry enough compressed air for a race distance...


Even if you did allow that, it would wreck the whole car. You can't just change one element without affecting everything else, the engine isn't designed to spin that fast so the pistons would make a run for it, also what about turbo, brakes, suspension, gearing, mgu, aero, top speed would be lethal.


Thanks. Interesting.

If RBR is that close to MB, what could they do if they had 15000rpm optimized to fuel flow during qualifying or as required?

I read somewhere they will have only 12000rpm for rest of season.


I don't think there's such limit, it's just that torque is highest about there.


i noticed today the first time...infography given that they change

speeds at abt. 11000 rpm


it doesn't change the 5 PU per season rule. If RB are not going to use the first engine again that means 4 engines have to do 2 extra races.


I meant as in Caterham and Lotus switching suppliers fella!


To answer your question, yes lotus are paying less if anything. There has been a big problem this year with teams other then redbull not paying or behind in payments. Renault do say however this has no effect on the development side of things. This is why I would say that redbull may be getting looked after a bit better and I cant blame them.


Come on Adrian, don't be defeatist!

Your car has excellent downforce potential, so it's not a totally last cause. On tracks where a chassis ability to generate downforce is more important than brute power - Barelona, Monaco, Silverstone, Hochenhiem, Hungaroring, Singapore and Suzuka - the Red Bull can compete on a level playing field with the Merc. Also, historically, Red Bull have good suspension compliance and aero centre of pressure/centre of gravity, so that's a good omen as well.

I know the Red Bull is out-grunted on long straights, but I still think a chassis ability to create clean, efficient downforce is key and the Bulls look pretty good on that front.

Come on Adrian, at try and keep the Mercedes honest!


Renault will be there by the end of the year.

Winning the championship couldn't last forever for the Red Bull/Renault/Vettel team, and it was getting bad for the sport (booing for the race winner?!?!)

But the same cannot be said for Ferrari, totally in the weeds, again. Yes they have two of the fastest drivers, but the car is way down, in every aspect, compared to the competitors.

AN has been the centre of attention for these past years, with his RB designs, and this year is no different; I'm convinced, that with the same power, the Red Bull would be winning, half a second ahead of the Mercedes.

But Mercedes did what they had to, pulled out all the stops, made calculated decisions on pushing rules, and have arrived ahead of everyone, in the new era.

The big car companies have a tough time selling the expenditures in F1, if they are NOT winning; remember BMW?

I sense other engine manufacturers coming into the sport, and hopefully we'll get some real divergence in the coming years.

This season seems pretty much a two horse race, of the same stable; so I expect audiences to start shrinking by the summer.


Agree with most of your post. Mercedes engine is ahead of Renault and Ferrari. However lets not get hyped, that Mercedes car is a very, very good one because it is over a second faster than the nearest Mercedes PU powered car.

To me that Redbull car might be best chassis and aero overall but with the slightest margin over the Merc.


Well said, Newy needs the Merc engine not just for power, it has a split turbine configuration which must be easier to package into the car. Unless reno split theirs the motor will be more inefficient and need greater cooling.


Remember newy is an airo man. So the airo rule this year will diminish his influence over the car, it's all about the power units.


Thats why the merc engine is good. A more efficient engine by definition means less cooling. The smaller intercooler and radiators means Newy has more scope to shape the RBR car, thats why I metioned the merc engine design innovation.


Excellent downforce potential??? With all the restrictions on bodywork, diffusers, exhausts, electronics I can't see how much they can gain on the chassis. Championship is Merc's. Renault has failed big time.


@sebee: there are 4 teams with a merc engine, therefore differences between them is down to chassis, not engine

by clean, efficient downforce i assume gazboy means low-drag downforce, which is diffuser, not wing/body


Well, obviously they're gaining enough through the chassis to have finished ahead of the other Mercedes customer teams. Marko has said they're 80hp down to Mercedes, but that if they recovered 40hp, they would be mixing it with Mercedes. Now I know Marko talks a lot of bunk sometimes, but on something like this I doubt he would make it up.

RBR last year obviously found something after the summer break, through the floor, that allowed them to run less rear wing but still have massive downforce. Essentially no-drag downforce, which would be killer in this new era. Now who knows how much of that was dependent on the EBD, etc. But they still have the best aero, and have likely built the best chassis.


I wonder how things will look at more aero centric circuits.


Hang on Tealeaf!

In the middle sector of Sepang, which features fast, flowing swoopy corners the Red Bull was very fast indeed. To be fast in quick corners means the Bulls are producing good high speed downforce, and at somewhere like Barcelona, Silverstone and the Hungaroring, that is just the meal ticket for a fast lap time.

I agree Renault are behind the 8-ball, nobody would dispute that. Remember, Sebastian kept Nico honest most of the afternoon in Sepang. OK, that was mostly down to the Sebastian's tenaciousness and ability to rotate a car in slower corners, but netherless the Bull is a lot, lot more competitive than I expected it to be.

I think you're right about the championship will be Mercs, but I do think the Milton Keynes mob, Sebastian and Daniel can keep the Brackley lads and lasses honest, and on tracks where downforce is more important than brute power, sneak a win.


I just want to admit that I did not believe the 100hp hype, doubted it but it turned out true. I was wrong.

Anyone could win the WDC in the Mercedes rocket ship. It's just down to beating your team mate.


Hey guys, don't think I'm under some illusion that RBR had fair driver treatment with Webber. Although they didn't muzzle him either.

So far, Vettel needs to figure this car out soon. If he had Daniel's result in Oz and Daniel's quali here there would be a clear 3 way battle for this thing. I am actually quite impressed at how close RBR and Renault are considering winter tests and 12000rpm limit on the PUs.


Kinda like Vettel has had for the last four years. .


Not a lot different to the story at Red Bull recently (or Ferrari in the early 2000's)...only difference being here at least the potential WDC has to beat his team mate on track (and not rely on winning through the pit wall/team bosses).


Just as anyone could win in the RBR rocket ship last year, they would just have to beat their teammate.

Webber never got on top of it (like Button in the first half of 2012), and Vettel was able to master the counter-intuitive driving style needed to get the best out of it.


It does seam defeatist when you have world champs like Adrian apparently giving up on a whole season just 2 races in. And that's just what he is saying publicly now. It's almost like privately he must have been thinking this year was a lost cause after the first tests.


I heard rumours that Red Bull's Marko has been disappointed with Renault and that the team are thinking of looking for a new engine supplier if Renault do not get on top of the problems soon.

Now if Renault are one month behind the competition is that gap even bridgeable considering the other teams will be pushing forward each month.

Anyway, lets see what boost the new engines give Red Bull and Torro Rosso this weekend, who knows, we may be in for a surprise.

Regards the championship, it's quite odd that the seasons in which Vettel has had a DNF at the very first race of are the seasons he wasn't successful e.g. 2008 and 2009.


I'm not sure I'd describe 2008 as unsuccessful for Seb...


In engineering once the basic concept of a design has been defined the rate of returns to effort put in tends to reduce rapidly as a concept get refined. so using and engine for example. One weeks work at the start of a project might result in a 10 hp gain. The next weeks work gets you a 5 hp gain, the week after that a 2.5 hp gain.

As such if each team makes the same rate of progress the team that's behind time wise will still be a week behind but in terms of performance the gap closes each week until it is negligible.


You also have to take into account that you can catch up a certain amount by coping the mercs. They understand why the merc engine is better so already that's 60% of the problem sorted. Like Button and the Brawn, the other teams copied (RBR made it even better) Merc on the other hand have to invert even better ideas which is clearly not an easy thing to do....


@ Bob

Oh I see...

Thanks for the explanation.


I would assume that means they are considering the new Honda power unit for 2015? I can't see either Mercedes or Ferrari supplying engines to Red Bull.

If this is the case it would be a massive risk to dump Renault for Honda, but it may be that they have nothing to lose.


Don't think anyone would wanna get a Ferrari PU at the moment LOL...


Has Honda's design been locked down since Feb?


No because they are not subject to the 2014 technical regulations as they aren't racing

All manufacturers will be able to make performance improvements at the end of the season before homologation in Feb 2015, which Honda will be subject to



honda have given McL exclusive use of the engine in 2015


McLaren is Honda's exclusive partner next year, and I would guess they would have a veto on who else Honda could supply. Maybe Red Bull should ring up BMW, entice them back in.


Cosworth might be a possibility and with a large injection of Red Bull cash I think they could do a good job but maybe not in time for 2015.


Honda are only going to be supplying McLaren exclusively next season from 2016 on wards will costumer Honda engines become available for the competition


@ Bill Nuttall

It's true, both Mercedes and Ferrari know Red Bull is a dangerous rival so can't risk supplying them with engines.


The 'top' teams not performing well on the track don't like the new regulations. Is this a surprise?

Ferrarri have a recent record of poor cars. So what do they do? They complain about the rules. They have an even longer record in that 'win through politics' reaction.

And now Red Bull are following suit.

Dummies are being thrown out of the pram because they are not top dogs and they see this as their right and proper place however poor their engineering and management teams perform.


as was said before

'twas ever thus'

It makes me smile that I used twas and thus in a blog post 🙂

I wonder if Ferrari road car drivers get together and wonder why they love their cars but the company can't build a competitive F1, car even though they get given more money to do it. PR disaster? Shurely shome mishtake ed


Neilmurg: was that last line a Sean Connery imitation? Sweet.


no it's from Private Eye, referring to drunken hacks pointing out lies. I this case, yes, huge PR disaster


So does that mean that Red Bull and Toro Rosso are on their second engine out of five for the year?

Also, is it just me or was that team representative press conference the most interesting in recent memory?


but they can use them again later, I didn't think they'd failed

David in Sydney

They get 5 of each defined module of the engine. They may not have brought a whole new engine but a new engine made of some new modules.

In theory there are five modules and there are five engines allowed which makes 25 engine combinations allowed throughout the season before penalty.


Yes they are. It was in FIA Technical Document #7 for Bahrain:

kenneth chapman

it is very hard to believe that given the teams have had two years or so to get on top of these problems that a major manufacturer can simply say, 'we are four weeks behind'!!! four weeks in at least 104? c'mon rene, stop treating us like fools.


his comment makes perfect sense to me

yours, not so much.


Don't know if you caught the pre-quali' show on Sky? They revealed a fundamental design difference between the Mercedes and Renault engines. Mercedes have split their turbo in two 'separate' halves. The turbine is at the back of the engine (back as in rear of car) and there is a connecting shaft running through the V of the engine to the compressor at the front. This means the gases from the turbine are already cooler, allowing them to use smaller intercoolers which brings a corresponding aero advantage. In addition, the compressed gas has less distance to travel, as the compressor is now at the engine inlet (rather than the normal configuration when it would be at the exhaust)so reducing turbo lag and reducing the drain from the electrical energy store which is used to keep the turbo spinning. Finally, the gearbox can now be placed closer to the engine as the turbo is smaller, which helps with the centre of gravity.

Which brings me to my final point. As the engine spec' has been frozen, Renault cannot simply copy this design. This makes their claims of being only a month behind difficult to believe - they are inherently behind Mercedes and cannot catch up as their design is inferior.


@kenneth chapman @c63 only just caught your replies. The '4 weeks' tells me a little bit, his engine can get better. Obviously 4 weeks at the end of a dev. is far more productive than at the start. He's hardly going to give chapter and verse on what he's developing, or what he knows of MB.

I don't know if the renault is 'inferior' but it looks unrefined.

In general, I am sensitive to statements like, 'sack him' or 'it's rubbish' because these are engineers on the bleeding edge of development, it's tough when you've been brilliant and someone else has done better. That doesn't mean your rubbish, it means you're going to have to work even harder. Split turbo is hot right now, but there's plenty of the season left to discover more (like fuel), and for big swings in the competitive order. I can't wait.


Finally someone mentions this! Renault is not a month behind - they (and Ferrari as well) were simply not as clever as the Germans. Inferior design is exactly the right word and they will have a very difficult time ever catching up though Adrian's aero design (even under these regs) might eventually bring the bulls close to the Mercs in the end.

What is really much more interesting now is if Honda will be able to copy the same configuration as Mercedes or they are locked out by patents.



As you already knew about the design difference, I guess my post wasn't necessary. However, it raises another question - if you were aware of the Renault's inferior design, how can you say their [Renault] claim of only being 4 weeks behind in development makes perfect sense and that a poster who queries it, makes no sense?

kenneth chapman

@ neilmurg... i have also read those articles and came to much the same conclusion. to simply say. 'we are four weeks behind' is an oversimplification of what appears to be 'prima facie' the major stumbling block preventing the renault engined cars to challenge the mercedes.

sorry if my post offended your delicate sensibilities but i am sure that the combination of horner/newey/marko and mateshitz would have used stronger language and condemnation than i did.


That split turbo was revealed elsewhere in mid-march, so not such a scoop. I listened eagerly to that show once they said 'we can exclusively reveal', but ended up with a, 'oh I thought we knew that 3 weeks ago'.

I'd like to tell you where it was, but that would be impolite on JA's brilliant web site

kenneth chapman

@ neilmurg.... you may care to elucidate?


he gave a perfectly understandable estimate of how far behind they were in development, less than a year, more than a week. You accused him of treating fans as if they were fools, which you didn't justify in any way and was rude.


Sounds like these new engines are back door performance enhancements. Watch redbull and torro rosso close the gap in the next few races.


Can someone explain how they intend to upgrade to this "new" engine, when there is an engine freeze?


I would like to know what steps they need to go through, to satisfy the FIA that it's only for reliability concerns? They could point to failures by their customer teams in races I guess, or maybe to failures on their engine dyno's.

Mercedes were able to change the material they used, to replace the rubber hose that cracked on Hamilton's car in the first race. That seems an open-shut case, in that it's hard to see how any performance gain could come from the new material used.


We hear of Mercedes and then we hear of Renault but where is Ferrari? James, can you do a bit on Ferrari with some good details and analysis? I know a lot is being said on the forums but its authenticity is questionable. I know what you share in your articles is trustworthy...

(From an F1 and a Ferrari fan)... desperate to hear on this...


Hi James,

I have a question. Do all renault powered teams use the same MGU K and MGU H? If Yes, then how come the Lotus team has reliability problems with the system, while RBR doesn't have that.

How much of the power unit can a customer team influence?


could be installation / cooling differences


they could bring auxilliary parts in-house but they would still be bound by power unit freeze regs


I would agree, a lot of the overheating problems RBR had in winter testing was down to their installation/packaging.

Don't forget that Vettel said in Melbourne they made a whole host of changes under the bonnet. I think the re-packaging that RBR have done has improved their reliability a lot, no more cooling issues even in the heat of Malaysia coupled that with the software updates they have made.


Up to now yes as far as I know

Now TR and RBR have new units


Will Lotus & Caterham get the new units at some point in the future? Or will Renault provide different standards of equipment to different teams?


Surely anything that renault do to make the engines more powerful cannot be classed purely as a "reliability" upgrade. What is the point of homologation if they can make changes to increase the units power and competitiveness? Could it be more obvious?


In fact the more i think about the comments from newey i.e. "theres a lot of development to be had." This is an on the record admission that renault are making or intend to make development upgrades to increase engine performance. This is not allowed in the rules!!


everybody (engine suppliers) will be upgrading their engines to at least the letter of the law; still within that, there is a lot of room to manoeuvre, and we all know how F1 teams push the letter past the breaking point, and then try to argue their way out of it.

Bring back V12's !!!

Since when did Red Bull care about rules?


I'm not clear how these reliability changes work.

For example, each driver will have used at least one of the permitted 5 MGU-K units. Will the modified shaft be fitted to the used one(s) as well as the unused ones?

If Yes, there could be quite an advantage in fitting new parts through this route. E.g. new batteries or new pistons might give a power boost?

And can you make a hardware change in order to reliably run a software change that improves performance? Is that hardware change for reliability or for performance? This seems like a grey area that teams will try to exploit.


Simple. Horner will ask Whiting for his opinion on adding more power to the Renault units and Charlie will say "I think that should be okay." This then becomes a "technical directive" which Horner will try and use any which way it helps their case. You know, lawyers and stuff.

By Spain, Redbull will have the new PU KERS (wink, wink) on their cars.


Things within the power unit are just a bit more complex than fitting new pistons or batteries (which you cannot do anyway) the freezing aspect is exactly that.

These are not 2 stroke Kart engines where a piston refresh peps an engine up and the likely improvements come from software maximisation of the turbo control in that is the one true 'free' area for development. Albeit truly limited by many other factors.

How much/many 'reliability' changes can be made or undertaken is down to if they are actually just that or back door performance upgrades and given the proposal is viewed by all other teams, all of whom will no doubt apply much brainpower to the proposals, you can imagine the uproar if there is an attempt by subterfuge even if they cannot really veto such attempts.

This will all be about the software writers and any (likely quite small in the total power output equation) basic IC engine developments will be minor - it is tightly regulated and the basic physics are well known by all. Software, turbo control, packaging, weight and all the other variables will be much higher on the list and hugely important in drive ability.


This is F1...stop trying to understand how all the confusion, grey areas and red tape works.


The rules have very often been written from the wrong end. They prohibit actions not effects.

At the same time I would have not fixed the new engine design until the end of the season. The restrictions are there supposedly as a cost control.


Imagine what this cost control does to Ferrari: Our engine is not powerful enough or efficient enough, so we have to spend a lot of money right now to makes sure it's competitive next season. But, to control costs, we will not just install the upgraded engines into the car: We will keep building engines the wrong way for this year's car, while we build them the best way we can for dyno testing only.

It's just ludicrous.


newey's in a grumpy mood this weekend


Renault have been in F1 long enough. No excuses are acceptable. Their struggles with kers last season are well known. It's no surprise that they are still struggling to implement new technology into their engine.


Which is really amusing since they were the ones who threatened to leave F1 if it didn't go to small, "road relevant" engines for their small, "road relevant" tiddly road cars.


Vettel, Ricciardo, Vergne, Kyvat, Bianchi, Chilton, and Maldonado are all on their second ICE.

Vettel is reported to be on his third CE PSU, Maldonado on his second TC, second MGU-K, and second MGU-H.

Renault has been replacing MGU-K drive shafts like cheese cakes.


Renault never had their own KERS system.


As to the question asked by somebody of the 12k rpm maximum reported to be in use.

The rules says that fuel flow is a maximum of 100kg/h at 10.5k rpm, it should be noted that that is what is called the max power speed, a point above which no more power is produced by the engine because no more fuel can be burned.


It would seem to me that being able to make changes due to reliabity issues would pretty much leave the door open for a complete redesign of the power unit.

I can see where a paddock attorney could make the case that even switching over to the Merc Turbo design (if it is in fact different I missed that article if it is out there).

Since that design supposedly helps with cooling and decreases friction that would be something reliability based. Therefore completely legal even though it sounds like a huge redesign of the whole engine.

Surely the rules are better written than that. Wait this is the FIA that is ok with drifting fuel sensors that can be off by ,25 percentage points.


How can Renault say that they are xxx months behind? Were they still developing the old V8 until late last season? I think not.

I suppose it is easier to say that they are behind in the development than to have to admit that they did not produce a winning power unit.


Judging where RB are now they have another fantastic chassis again, thanks to Newey and his team, To drag the Renault that far up the grid is a testament to the job they have done. So after the winter they had and Rics fuel issues Im not surprised Newey's getting a bit peeved with the Renault guys still working on their complex creation.



With Honda coming in next year and still free to develop before the 2015 homologation, how much can the other teams develop their engine for performance since they have already been homologated for 2014.

I.e. now that we have seen how Mercedes have designed their PU and all the advantages their design gives them, will Ferrari/Renault be able to copy that design for the 2015 homologation date both for performance/efficiency/reliability reasons? time permitting.

If it isn't allowed, then won't Mercedes continue to hold this advantage until the next set of big regulations to the engines?


Loads of speculation about relative engine power. Very easy to get to truth: Just look at overhead video of GP start.

You get very precise measure of power of each car from the rate of acceleration at speeds just over the traction limited speed where you can no longer spin the wheels (probably about 120km/hr) this is before aero drag is significant. That means about 2-2.5s after lights out at start if you measure the position of each car in 3 consecutive frames from overhead then you can determine the velocity (meters per second) from first two frames, and from second two frames, difference between those two velocities is acceleration (meters per second per second). Gives you the acceleration force (Force=790kg x acceleration), and so the Power (Power = Force x velocity). No mystery or speculation required. This is exactly what all the teams reconnaissance departments do, they just don't make the information public.

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