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Toro Rosso lights blue touch paper with Renault F1 over engine conflict
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Nov 2017   |  1:57 pm GMT  |  78 comments

[Updated] The season is winding down, but there is no shortage of passion going on in the paddock and Saturday in Interlagos has seen a furious row escalating between Toro Rosso and Renault.

It was always one of the curiosities of the deal that saw Toro Rosso switch from Renault to Honda engines for 2018 and with it an early swap for Carlos Sainz to Renault before the end of this season, that they were in direct competition in the constructor’s standings.

Toro Rosso is on 53 points in sixth place and Renault has 48 with two rounds to go.

So when Toro Rosso makes a suggestion that the chronic reliability of the Renault engine recently on its car may be linked to this battle, that really lights the blue touchpaper with Renault, not surprisingly.

Toro Rosso took exception to suggestions from Renault’s senior management that the problems they have had with the power units are linked to the way Toro Rosso uses them.

They issued a statement on Saturday morning refuting this suggestion: “We would like to clarify that all the MGU-H and Shaft failures Toro Rosso has recently suffered are not associated with how the team is operating or with how the PU is integrated in the chassis,” the statement said.

“Nothing has been changed or altered in this installation during the 2017 season, other than cooling improvements mid-season. Since the summer break Toro Rosso has suffered continuous power unit related failures, and the resulting grid penalties has cost the team points and relative positions in the Constructors’ championship.”

They then took it up a level with this passage: “One of the primary reasons for the issues we are seeing is the lack of new power unit parts available. In Toro Rosso’s case the team is constantly having to change parts from one PU to another during the weekend and, on many occasions, is forced to run old specification assemblies.”

This is not new; there have been complaints from the team on this score recently.

But the real sucker punch is this line: “We mustn’t forget that they are fighting with Toro Rosso for a better position in the Constructors’ championship, as suggested by Mr Abiteboul the situation may not be a coincidence, but it is certainly not due to STR’s car.”

The big picture
The next move will be interesting, with Renault likely to be incandescent with rage at the suggestion of sporting impropriety by a major manufacturer. While one frequently hears this kind of thing murmured, it’s unusual to see something like that written down in a statement.

A meeting was held at 4pm in the Red Bull team offices at Interlagos with Renault represented by Alain Prost and Cyril Abiteboul. This has the potential to become legal.

It will also have dismayed Honda’s management, to see their new partner for next season doing this to an engine partner.

At the same time, we must not forget that the engine in the sister Red Bull car has won two of the last four Grands Prix with Max Verstappen.

Behind the scenes there is the ongoing wrangle between the drinks manufacturer and its long time engine partner over supply from 2019 onwards. Red Bull believes that the FIA rules mean that the French manufacturer has to supply them an engine if they require it, but Renault has made it clear that they would prefer not to.

They have recently signed a contract with McLaren to supply engines from next season.

Stepping back a pace or two further, one has to consider that we are now in the early stages of a major conflict between three of the manufacturers in F1 and Liberty Media. This was highlighted last week after the statement was put out regarding the engines for 2021 onwards, which Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault all pushed back on, as it does not align with their views of what F1 engines should be. They want to lock in their advantage. Liberty is looking to level the playing field.

Red Bull is a top team, but it is also an independent and as such does not enjoy the power in every sense that the manufacturers have and indeed is motivated to try to diminish that power.

Hence Franz Tost’s comments on Friday in an FIA press conference that the hybrid turbo engines have been a disaster for F1 and Christian Horner’s refrain at the moment that Ferrari and Mercedes are so aligned it’s hard to tell which one is speaking in meetings.

Throwing very negative spotlight on a manufacturer, highlighting the powerlessness (literally) of the independent teams and insinuating a lack of sporting equity on the part of a manufacturer, is a tactic at a time like this.

What do you make of this spat? Where will it end? Leave your comments in the section below

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Hi James, how do the engine contracts with teams work? They obviously sign up for the year, which should be 4 engines. But if they use a fifth do the team pay extra for that or does the engine manufacturer foot the bill?
If the team has to pay for the 5th, you would expect a brand new shiney engine. If the engine manufacturer pays, you can understand why at this late stage of the season they would be remanufacturing parts and stretching them out. From STR point of view they will want all new but I guess it depends what the contacts say.


I would expect that teams sign up not per unit, but per year of supply, no matter how many units that requires. Teams don’t buy the engines themselves, it’s a leasing/support model, so after a few years the teams may ask the supplier to buy the used engines (for their historical racing team, show room cars and used car sales) and they might also buy some extended maintenance/spare part service for their old engines.


Yes, I’d like to know that too. Thanks…


Its only a matter of time before Renault show Cyril his walking papers, and replace him with Prost. Problem is Prost probably does not want the position.

Ah well there is always the return of Eric.


It will also have dismayed Honda’s management, to see their new partner for next season doing this to an engine partner.

This behavior from a Red Bull owned Team should be no news to Honda.

Hence Franz Tost’s comments on Friday in an FIA press conference that the hybrid turbo engines have been a disaster for F1 and Christian Horner’s refrain at the moment that Ferrari and Mercedes are so aligned it’s hard to tell which one is speaking in meetings.

When will people ever learn from history?
It takes Formula 1 about 4 to 5 years until the performance of teams and engines to approach the regulation’s technical limits, so that we get something like close racing and small teams finally get competitive. Then the rules are changed and everything starts over, and we moan that small teams are not competitive, some engines are superior and so forth.
It is insane to repeat the same mistake over and over again, and expect a different outcome.

Formula 1’s engine rules need to stay the same in order for Renault and Honda to catch up. At one point it is then time to freeze development so no one goes on spending millions of dollars for microscopic gains.
This will be the time when these engines will become cheaper, because then manufacturers can start streamlining their production, changing it from a prototype workflow to a mini series workflow.
Even when frozen, new manufacturers would be allowed to join and develop until the FIA can prove their performance is within some fixed percentage of the others, or until they’ve scored a number of podiums (this could be debated when it’s time).


“Formula 1’s engine rules need to stay the same in order for Renault and Honda to catch up. At one point it is then time to freeze development so no one goes on spending millions of dollars for microscopic gains.”

Why? This is a hard nosed commercial competition. If they’re no good, let them leave, not seek parity. This is F1, not a game of cricket…;)


You can’t have a cake and eat it. Teams need to make some profit to survive and Formula 1 needs enough diversity (teams and manufacturers) to stay interesting.


“It will also have dismayed Honda’s management, to see their new partner for next season doing this to an engine partner”

What about McLaren? For them to see what Renault does to customers. Unreliable PU, not enough power, turn them down without telling, blaming you for failures and maybe delivering second tier parts. Good luck McLaren, at least Honda was only unreliable and under powered.


I cannot believe Renault would be doing anything underhand.
I mean it’s not as if they have any history of, say, crashing a car to affect a race is it?
Oh, wait….


what was the update? really hate it when an article says update but doesn’t separate the update with the original. not like we can run a diff just to see what’s changed.


Interesting little tiff this one. My take is a little different. Abiteboul, who is quite political and pugnacious, tried to do down Toro Rosso by blaming them for Renault’s engine failures, and got his fingers burned somewhat when they clarified why this happens and got angry when they started insinuating. It was probably below the belt for STR to then claim in an official statement that the constructor’s battle was causing this, that said.

In terms of the wider political machinations, who has provoked who here? Is it Renault who started it (as Franz Tost was saying before qualifying) by blaming STR for the engine failures or is it Toro Rosso by insinuating that they are being discriminated against? You could argue that Renault have started it, though I suppose Toro Rosso then went and blew it up further! It all seems to have defused now, but interesting to see if there will be some lingering after-effects.


Though i think Renault started this dispute. I also think that TR/RB used it as leverage for the engine meetings. To point at manufacturers and the need for independant engine suppliers. Say what you want about RB, but they do not sit quietly against the manufacturers like some other teams do.

Kamiel from Piquet to Hakkinen

A title like ” Torro Rosso reacts infuriated on Renault’s suggestive statement about failing PU’s” would probably be more representative James Allen.


Agree, the article makes it look like TR is to blame for this mess. The background of Renault accusing TR and squeezing customer engines, is not mentioned properly enough.


I can’t see a manufacture actually doing this to be frank and there must be ways to track evidence of this. I hope Renault sues them for defamation. Honda beware.


instead of getting angry maybe renault should concentrate on building an engine that actually works.


This is just a comment about what I feel when I weigh this all up, nothing more. I am not suggesting there is cheating going on ….. but ….. maybe “payback” or “retribution” are more pertinent descriptions.

Renault have dropped Toro Rosso from it’s PU supply for 2018 and Red Bull for 2019 …. as a powerful part of what was decided, they also immediately took Sainz …. Sainz is the only driver at Toro Rosso who has been consistently scoring points …. Toro Rosso now seem to be suffering the worst and most consistent failures out of the 3 teams using Renault PUs …. Toro Rosso are only 5 points in front of Renault in the WCC …. Toro Rosso now only have 2 rookie drivers to try and score points for them in the final 2 races …. Toro Rosso now have no new parts left to replace the broken ones.

I can certainly understand why the person in charge at Toro Rosso would ponder and question the incredibly one-sided look of the situation.
As the manufacturer, Renault will always take the liberty of using whatever new parts are available to them on their own cars before handing the leftovers to a customer. Even Red Bull are complaining about having to use “refurbished and reused” parts because Renault can’t (or won’t?) supply them with new components.
I firmly believe on a very basic level, Toro Rosso are being “shafted”! (sorry about the pun)

If Renault does beat them in the next few weeks, there will be millions of people around the world “reading the tea leaves” in a manner exactly the same as Franz Tost! (and myself)

It’s definitely got me wondering if there are extenuating circumstances surrounding this weird and wonderful “deal” which has been struck between Red Bull, Renault and Toro Rosso. Circumstances that revisit the years of very public abuse and dissent from Red Bull towards Renault.
Could it be that Renault have made damn sure they are going to repay the Bulls for their disrespect. By that I mean both of Red Bull’s teams, because when it all boils down, Marko and Mateschitz are the outspoken leaders of those teams who made life so difficult for Renault over the past 4 years.


Poor Red Bull and STR. They’re like the Tay-tay Swifts of Formula 1 – always the poor, downtrodden (but ridiculously wealthy and successful) victim. If I was running their Investor Relations department I’d look into calculating the monetary impact on their brand of them constantly being in negative, griping mode. “Red Bull – Gives You Whininess”. Not sure that’s what their hip, young target audience wants to be associated with: “DUDE, if you fail, it’s totally not your fault, MAN! The system is out to get you!”


A defamation suit should end the STR/Renault relationship nicely. This is just another example of the unprofessional manner in which individuals, teams and the FIA/FOM conduct themselves and make decisions. Franz’s press release was as reactive as Bernie’s qualifying changes and as about as effective in achieving the desired outcome….. Bring on the final stages of the development of the next generation of regulations and the subsequent ridiculous spend for a rubbish show that ensues because people in F1 cannot retract their heads from their anuses for the good of the sport…… Makes you wonder how they all got there in the first place…… Mummy and daddy’s money most probably…..


Hardly surprising that Renault want to see the back of the whole Red Bull operation is it? To be fair to Torro Rosso it was a strange thing for Cyrille to say, and doesn’t seem to explain the repeated failures that Red Bull and Renault themselves have suffered, but to flat out accuse your engine supplier of such underhand behaviour is unwise.
Horner thinks Renault have to supply them in 2019? I don’t think so Christian, if Honda are only supplying one team and offer you an engine, then it’s the Honda for you!


I saw this statement in different direction, it was a planned one…. RedBull want indipendant engine supplier who are much interested in new proposed engines and they want to create fuss as they always did. Renault is only engine supplier who never provided different engines to its customers, no matter how stressful the relationship was. RedBull did not condemned the statement yet.


I wonder if redbull teams contractually are not allowed to criticise Renault publicly after 2015 and could TR just have talked RBR out of a Renault PU supply earlier than they thought


It sounds like Renault left themselves open to criticism by publicly calling into question Toro Rosso’s equipment management.


Yep, Cyril is smoking again. He always do that whether on driver incidents, customers whatever tale away some clarity to how poor they have been doing hardly ever had 2 var running a full race. Like his driver management, any quess why Vassour left?


Torro Rosso never had these problems with the former Ferrari engine. I don’t buy it they using the wrong settings all season. I mean at some time they would have figured out these custom settings were bad. Then there’s the refurbished parts thing and to top it off Renault has been talking a lot of lies and false promises this this season. And like some other bloke said this constructors battle is a motive. If i had to put my money on this I would say TR being the real victims here.


Renault should be thankful Honda came along when they did because without that distraction, much more would have been made of Renaults terrible reliability in this current era. It has been woeful.

Renaults new marketing spin..”At Least We Are Not As Bad As Honda”


Also I can’t see Renault being that bothered about whatever financial benefit there is to finishing 6th versus 7th in the Constructor’s Championship this year. I’m sure the money would be nice to have but they’re not likely to be underfunded without it. They have their eyes on a bigger, longer term goal.


Your right on the money, but since Cyril went for 5. he will do what it takes as a true and trusty sportsman, rember this guy is not a standard bloke enjoying racing or creating engagement in his team, he is in there for him self I firmly believe.


Poor wickle Wed Bull never get a fair break, do they? Poor diddums. I can understand why Renault would want out of the deal. No amount of success is worth the flack and politics associated with working with Red Bull.


Well Renault will be saying bye bye to both teams after next year. Mclaren Renault has a nice ring to it.


Torro Rosso after this year already, and they’ll both be happy with it. Red Bull possibly after next year, but then they’ll also have to say bye bye to Sainz.

Mclaren Renault has a nice ring to it.

For Renault it does, yeah.


Witness, and savour, the only ‘real’ competition of the year, right now, between Renault and TR.

This is the only real competition of the 2017 season, the race for… wait for it…
5th place!

With Sainz and the Hulk, and… all of the ‘tools’ at their disposal, Renault has got a real opportunity to ‘steal’ fifth from TR.
This is going to get more interesting by the end of the race.


Are statements like this usually unsigned?


Just Red Bull making itself popular, as usual.


The statement of TR is unacceptable, there’s no justification about that.
Renault should take heavy counter measures against TR to force them respect an OEM. Design and produce an engine is not at reach for everybody, that must force respect.
Further, redbull is never associate Revault with their wins, podiums whereas they are quick to damage the Renault brand by issuing negative disastrous insulting comments of all kind. This one way relationship is working no where on earth. It’s time for Cyril Abiteboul to implement strong acts, he lets Marko, Horner and co trash talking Renault so lot, this thing has to stop.
If redbull are not agree, they can leave the sport. I won’t regret them.


Ho ho hold your horses. It was Renault who started to blame TR by saying it is their own fault that the engines keep failing. A hard statement to prove with all Renaults failures at all their teams. This remark in combination with Renault’s action of decreasing turbo revs without telling their customers (estimated 0,2 to 0,3s a lap) has triggered the reaction. You are obvious not a RB/TR fan, fine by me, but not get blinded by that. TR/RB pay a lot of money for engines that are not compatible, have a bad reliability, are now put is save mode and no engines/spare parts to be delivered. How would you feel if a supplier did this to you? You would buy a Renault again? This indeed proves Ron Dennis was right about manufactorers.


The trash talk is no excuse for Renault anymore. They agreed to enter a new contract after Red Bulls whining in 2015, so apparently that was acceptable to them.
More importantly, by implying that the Renault problems were caused by TR abusing their engines Renault started this whole thing. To me this situation is completely different from the earlier outbursts because of that. If Tosts claims are unacceptable, surely Renaults are as well.
So both schoolchildren should shake hands now and keep up working.


The statement of TR is unacceptable, there’s no justification about that.

It was justified when Torro Rosso got low-quality refurbished parts instead of new ones, and then taking grid penalties for them. How would you feel if you paid Apple for a brand new Mac Book Pro and got a refurbished one instead?


Hi. I am genuinely late to this party and would like to research this “refurbished parts” catastrophe. Can you point me in the right direction?


It’s not the same kind of relationship.
Public accuses a partner of unfair calculated manœuvre in order to take benefit of it’s a huge accusation.
An engine supplier is more than a simple one like a sparks plug supplier is. The engine is just the central element of the car, you can’t move nowhere without one.

Public finger pointing on partner is the worst way for doing business. Just take a look of maclaren Honda relationship, zero improvement over 3 years, the climate was just awful and disastrous for efficiently work.
I guess TR is just frustrated after loosing Sainz to Renault and switch to Honda engine. It’s still not a reason to diminish an partner, you never know what the future will bring


take a look of maclaren Honda relationship, zero improvement over 3 years,

From being lapped by almost the entire field in 2015 to being a constant Q3 candidate and scoring top ten results in 2017 in 3 years, against other manufacturers working flat out, is not “zero improvement”, but quite the contrary.


I have a different view regarding this point. It’s not mean you wrong and I’m right. It depends of the perspective.
Honda used more than 100 engine parts this season and they are quite far in term of reliability and performance. Mac Laren, good qualifying results are down the th chassis, track characteristics and Alonso great ability to out drive the car.


as goes for tires, driver, chassis, fuel.. so nothing special there.


I won’t put in the scale an oem engine supplier and a spark plug supplier. When we saw how a global brand like honda struggles to make one, no need to a argue a lot here.


Is that you Alain, you sly old dog!
You french autocorrect undid you with “manoeuvre”.


Did anyone else find Sainz pulling off the track just after the start in his last race for Toro Rosso before moving to Renault a tad suspicious also?


Deeply deeply suspicious, and did you notice, he pulled off right by the grassy knoll. I bet he thought no- one would care..

Tornillo Amarillo

Yes me, but he and others driver are doing the same lately.


It’s hard to believe Renault when they say it’s all down to how toro rosso are using them. Do you think there’s any truth in toro rosso’s claims James?


About old parts being re-engineered and re-used? THat’s what they say. I’m looking into it


Prost admitted they were having to re use old parts in an interview on Sky.


I think he said re-furbished parts. And then he mentioned that Renault is having issues with certain suppliers – in an attempt to deflect blame.

Anyway its all about next year now. You think Honda cares to give Zac anything now ? Same for Cyril and Torro Rosso.


Refurbished parts? Hardly surprising this late in the season especially if TR are demanding more than can be manufactured from scratch. Either way new or repaired I’m sure all the parts come with Renaults usual 3 laps or 300 revs ( whichever comes first) warranty.


Renault can’t catch RBR, but can catch STR. Therefore, the motive is there.

2018, if Renault (thanks to Budkowski) rocket to challenge RBR, this could play out again just closer to the sharp end.

Bottom line is, that STR are clearly exposing the obvious conflicts of interest that exist with teams who supply customer teams. Ron said as much, and we know it. Manufacturers don’t let customers beat them.

You only need to look at what Mercedes did to McLaren for 2013 after being beaten 3 years straight as a factory team to see how “incandescent with rage” manufacturers get when customers beat them.


hoping TR/Honda gets the last laff next year, and Honda make a miracle and come up with the bomb, engine
… for so many reasons…
and Honda buys TR.


Honda has seen a very good improvement since they’ve started. Reliability issues at the start of the season stopped them from progressing faster, but you can clearly see they’ve almost caught up to Renault.
I find it awkward that McLaren are pulling the plug and I have the gut feeling that they’ve pulled it one year too early. Next year Honda will have a hard time to demonstrate their improvement, as the Toro Rosso chassis and aerodynamics will probably not be as good as the McLaren, but it occurs to me that Red Bull are sending Toro Rosso to the front line, to get the Honda unit up to their requirements in 2019.
I have the strong gut feeling that Red Bull had the pleasure to watch McLaren take the punishment and will reap what Ron Dennis sow, because Zak Brown got impatient.


Zac Brown is a ball of confusion. It will be his blunder – wait and see next year and the year after. I can’t wait to see the Alonso temper….. when he gets beat by the Toro Rosso Honda.

Don’t confuse the Red Bull engine with a factory Renault engine. The TAG is the better package. Red Bull are not waiting around.

McLaren will suffer more next year.


Erm, how? TAG is a rebadged Renault isn’t it? What is this TAG PU, pray tell..


Oh yeah! Imagine Honda having a blowout season of the sort Mercees has recently enjoyed – and the ruckus that would cause! Would it involve barristers do you think?


Imagine Honda having a blowout season of the sort Mercees has recently enjoyed

Won’t happen. The reason being the law of diminishing returns.
No one will easily find 100 bhp anymore. The engine manufacturers are closing the gap to the limit of the regulations and the closer they get, the less progress they can make with increasing effort. As a result, the longer the regulations stay stable, the smaller the differences between the engines become.
Formula 1s mistake, that they repeat over and over again, is that the moment we get to close racing, they change the regulations so everybody starts ovber, one comes out at the top and everybody alse has to spend years to catch-up, until they finally managed to do so which is when the FIA will change the rules again.


That would be hilarious! Decent odds on this too.


Okay Sebee, here’s a conspiracy theory with some real credibility that you can really sink your teeth into, but gently now, gently… 🙂


Oh Random….tell us when someone in F1 isn’t conspiring!


I can’t do that Sebee – Of course there’s always conspiracies in F1, but some are more believable than others.

I don’t know that Toro Rosso has it right, but as you rightly say the motive is there…


With the egos of the F1 paddock, the name of the game is make it as unbelievable as possible and get away with it!


I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds like a damned good idea for a game show 🙂


Didn’t Bernie just come out and tell one? No one believes him. They laughed it off…”oh that silly senile Bernie”…they claim.

Meanwhile, Bernie is like…pay up boys! I win. Again.


To tell the truth?


I understand that if Red Bull doesn’t have engine delivery secured for 2019, than engine rules would make Honda deliver these engines to them.


It is being reported elsewhere that Renault have a contract with F1 to supply Red Bull leaving them the choice between Honda and Renault power. Makes no sence but not a lot in F1 does.


I am aware of such idea and I do not discard it, but I was referring to ‘FIA rules’ contained in the Sporting Regulations rather than to particular deal between Renault and FIA/Liberty.


It is strange that torro rosso are having soo many problems. But saying that all Renault powered teams are having problems so it’s not like Renault have been able to take advantage.
Any idea what redbull will do for engines come 19?.


I seem to remember Max Verstappen having serial problems with reliability earlier in the season – did Renault or a supplier deliver a batch a little under standard, or Renault go just a bit too far in some aspect so that they incurred these problems, and now are passing the flawed bits on to TR? Or are they really maleficient, manipulating parts for points? Or is there a Budget God that simply enforces the “low budgets lose” law? I believe there is more smoke than fire here, and look forward to discovering lawyers talk their side up…


Torro Rosso has every right to criticize Renault. Abiteboul admitted yesterday that the parts they supplied them recently are basically sub-par in quality. How can he be saying that and on the same time be stating that the problems are in large part Torro Rosso’s fault? So far I haven’t seen any facts backing up the statement that TR are using the engines in a poor way, and it’s just Abiteboul throwing suggestions in the media that “it can’t be a coincidence”.


To be honest, Renault is the only manufacturer to actually agree to supply teams that are likely to compete with or beat the works team. I find it very hard to believe that they will fall to this extent for the sake of an amount of money that pales in comparison with their overall investment in F1.

Tornillo Amarillo

Renault was furious with the statement.

So TR is wrong in this.


Would the fact that Palmer had so many mechanical issues throw any perspective on TR’s comments?


Palmer was rubbish. No excuse will deviate from that fact.

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