Renault Sport F1, the arm of the French car company that designs and manufactures Formula One engines for Red Bull and others has today announced that its President and Managing Director, Jean-Michel Jalinier, has stepped down from the company. He cited personal reasons, but it follows calls from its main customer Red Bull for “changes” in the management at the French manufacturer.
Taking Jalinier’s position is current Chief Performance Officer Jerome Stoll, who will maintain his previous role whilst becoming President and Managing Director. Stoll will be reported to by Cyril Abiteboul, a Frenchman seen frequently around the F1 paddock in recent years as the CEO of Caterham F1.
This year’s Renault Formula One engine, after initially proving itself to be both slow and unreliable, has made strides in the opening phase of 2014, taking a race win with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in the Canadian Grand Prix and enjoying much improved reliability.
However, where previously Mark Webber had long suffered the lion’s share of unreliability behind the wheel of a Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel is now the victim of a string of issues. The last Grand Prix in Austria saw Vettel lose power in his RB10 on the second lap, before rejoining and eventually retiring at midpoint in the race.
At the time, Red Bull claimed Renault’s performance was ‘unacceptable’ – the words of Team Principal Christian Horner. “We’ve won all the races and all the championships that we’ve achieved with Renault power,” said Horner. “But the situation just isn’t improving at the moment.
“The reliability is unacceptable. The performance is unacceptable. There needs to be change at Renault. It can’t continue like this. It’s not good for Renault and it’s not good for Red Bull.
“Something needs to happen because whatever’s being done there at the moment isn’t working.
“It’s not our business, it’s not our responsibility. We’re the end user and it’s just frustrating that it’s not where it needs to be at the moment.”
In response to Vettel’s retirement Renault Sport have investigated the failure, as all engine suppliers do with any minor technical glitch, and found that the problem arose from the standardised Formula One ECU (electronic control unit), rather than that of an inherent Renault fault.
Speaking to Autosport, Renault’s head of trackside engineering Remi Taffin said, “”We found that after Vettel pressed the overtake button, it selected a map that was not accepted.
“It resulted in it having a torque demand of zero newton metres, so there was no power. It was basically idling.
“We found out in this instant that it was this [overtake] button that triggered it, and that is why we asked [Daniel] Ricciardo to not use it.”
Changes have been made to the system ahead of Red Bull’s second home race at Silverstone this weekend and it is expected that the rare problem will not reoccur.
Vettel is one of six drivers, four of whom use Renault power, to have only one power unit remaining before being subject to a ten-place grid penalty. It is therefore a priority for Renault Sport F1 and its new senior management structure to minimise the chance of such events occurring.