With the onset of the 2017 Formula One season, McLaren Honda quickly became the butt of all jokes as the world discovered their shocking lack of power and reliability. And that’s fair – nobody expected two mega brands like McLaren and Honda to come together and produce such poor results.
However, there’s a second spotlight now, and it is on Renault.
The spotlight has been coming down on Renault rather brightly recently with Jolyon Palmer’s engine struggles with the works Renault team, and the unlucky run of form Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen has been having with his Renault power unit’s reliability.
At the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix where both Palmer and Verstappen retired due to car troubles, Red Bull Racing officially fell behind McLaren Honda as the team to have completed the least amount of grand prix laps in 2017.
Photo : Camille De Bastiani
However, Renault insist that they are confident that with new components in place, they are hitting reliability targets on the dyno and are also not far from unleashing more power.
“When we struggled with reliability over the winter, it was not only on track, you also struggle on the dyno”, said Renault’s Remi Taffin.
“So you are slowing down the progress. Even if you have very good CFD correlation, at one point you have to run them. This is what we have been hurt by.”
Talking about the new engine modes and settings update Renault brought to the Azerbaijan GP, Taffin expanded : “As soon as we got to around race five, we could actually put more hours onto our engine and more dyno work – that is what we have got here in Baku with the update.
“It is all about reliability, which has obviously taken us two months more than we would have liked. But at least now we can benefit from that and in Baku we could get more performance out of the engine, which was good for this kind of track.
“If you are on the back foot and have to turn things down electronically, then you can move things up quite easily when you have the reliability back. This is what we did in Baku and it sometimes feels like it is a bit of magic stuff – you don’t need to change big things in the engine hardware to make big steps these days.”
Talking about Renault’s plans going forward, Taffin said : “The second part of the season, we will be looking to build on the right level of reliability to take the most out of the engine.
“That also means the most out of the power unit, so we can get more electrical energy out of the energy store and so on and so forth.
“We will see if we can bring some of the update stuff forward. We will have some new fuel or lubricants which will help and if we have some new bits and pieces that we have left aside from the start of the season, we will bring them.
“There is still a big focus in trying to follow our road map and make sure that next year’s engine is there. And as it is an engine that is close to this one, it is easier to transfer ideas from one to the other.”
Photo : Sutton Images
This was supposed to be the year Renault stepped up. This was supposed to be the year Ricciardo and Verstappen challenged for the title with Red Bull and the works Renault team solidified their place in the midfield regularly battling the likes of Force India and the Williams cars, but reliability has cost them dear.
Hopefully they can turn this around quickly, because as a race fan, a Renault on top in F1 was a big part of my childhood and sounds just right.
Feature image : Sam Bloxham – LAT Images
– Aditya Bhat.