Renault: Hybrid engine rules aren’t ‘fit’ for F1…really?

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Renault may have come to some conclusions about the current engine regulations featuring a turbo V6 and hybrid system—you know, the regulations they wanted and threatened to leave the sport if they didn’t get? Yeah, those regulations.

It seems they now feel these regulations aren’t really fit for the sport of F1. In fact, they feel the regulations that brought F1—kicking and screaming into the role of an official testing ground for hybrid engines for car makers such as Renault and Mercedes—to this tenuous position with unbearable financial costs, is really not the right way to go. Renault F1 managing director, Cyril Abiteboul, said:

“Hybrid regulations are important, not just to Renault but to any car maker,” he said. “If you look at the future product line of most brands, you will see hybrid elements on all cars.

“If you ask me about this particular set of regulations, how important they are, we should not be precious. I am not completely convinced that we have the engine regulations that are completely fit for purpose for the model of modern F1.

“[I am talking about] for the show, for the cost for the manufacturer, for price for the team, also noise and serviceability and so on and so forth.

“Plus also there is all the sporting elements associated with it – like the token system, which is extremely confusing, and the penalty system, which is extremely confusing. I don’t think we have something brilliant.”

So it’s too expensive, too confusing, to difficult to service and maintain and too quiet. On one side it’s frustrating to hear a team that threatened F1 if it didn’t change to this power unit regulation. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to hear a team, who was all in, admit that these regulations may have missed the mark and they may not be good for the sport—imagine that given the ear-splitting chorus about road relevancy—and they feel a change is needed.

“Having said that, do we need to write this off completely or improve what needs to be improved and fix what needs to be fixed rather than trying to come up with something completely new? I’m not quite sure.

“The problem is when we try to come up with something completely new, which is trying to be a breakthrough in comparison to what we had before, it is not necessarily brilliant.

“The regular thing is evolution rather than radical changes. It is very difficult to anticipate what will be the effect of radical change. But we are completely open to change in the regulations.”

He’s right in that wholesale changes can be very dicey if not completely considered. I think as fans we’ve learned one thing about modern F1. Any changes to regulation is usually met with increased costs for big teams who can spend.

Think of the testing ban. The teams spent tens of millions (if not more) on outrageous simulators to take the place of real testing. A ban on testing could have been re-written for a controlled test program that limited expenses instead of forcing teams to find other alternatives outside of the ban such as simulators.

The hybrid engine is a perfect case as it was ushered in during a time of incredibly heightened awareness of costs in F1 and the knock on effect was a doubling or tripling of engine supply costs and massive R&D for the manufacturers. In fairness, even if they would have said the sport was going back to a V10, the teams would have spent millions on all-new V10 technology and design but it wouldn’t have reached the levels of these hybrids in overall expense.

In the end, I think a turbo is fine and possibly a KERS system to supplement the lack of displacement from a smaller ICE but really that could be achieved and managed. Perhaps even a twin-turbo V6 with KERS and 900bhp? I think that’s enough and wouldn’t be a bridge too far for the series as these current engine regulations appear to be.

Whether or not the current regulations are fit for F1, the question that I would like to ask Mercedes or Renault is this: What elements of F1’s current engine regulations have directly translated to your road cars? How has your road car performance, economy and production all been improved by F1’s power unit regulations and design?

If the answer is anything less than 100%, then F1 has made a mistake on the whims of manufacturers who needed an ideologically reason to justify their expense to go racing. Some sustainability reason to compete that wasn’t simply engaging in brand-building…something like hybrid engines and corporate responsibility and not just pure racing for racing’s sake.

I will be very interested in seeing what Messrs. Todt and Ecclestone come up with this month as the way forward in 2017. Whatever it is, perhaps Renault will be less likely to threaten to leave the sport if it isn’t an electric car because they just doubled down on their long-term investment with the acquisition of Lotus.

Hat Tip: Mr. Noble at Motorsport

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Alianora La Canta

Did Renault not think of this before buying Team Enstone? That seems like an odd decision for an organisation this unhappy about an engine format that for financial reasons will probably have to stay until 2020.

Peter Riva

Colin Chapman would never has succeeded under the current conditions – he thought outside the box and (in doing do) changed F1 forever. Rear engine, smaller, lighter cars, and on and on. Today all the “creative” people are left with is innovation that just squeaks in under the regulations (until the diffuser or mass dampner is thought too innovative).
Bah humbug.

MIE

Chapman certainly did think outside the box, and while he certainly saw the advantage of the engine behind the driver, he was far from the first to use it.
However, I agree that the regulations need to be far less prescriptive, we need to encourage those original thinkers, Ben Bowlby is probably the closest we have to Colin Chapman these days, but he has never tried F1.

Al

That’s rather insulting to Chapman, don’t you think? Bowlby’s silly cars have come and gone….

MIE

It wasn’t intended as an insult to Chapman. He did have his fair share of off the wall ideas, like the twin chassis concept.
Bowlby is the only recent designer who is looking at things from a completely different perspective. In F1 the regulations have prevented such innovation.

geeyore

Who was it that recently proposed burning the entire FIA rulebook and starting all over again? I suppose some motorsport pundit, but it’s a good idea.

Boyd McCollum

Let’s translate into English what Cyril is really saying “we at Renault don’t know how to build a competitive hybrid system, so F1 should scrape it.” ===== “If the answer is anything less than 100%, then F1 has made a mistake on the whims of manufacturers who needed an ideologically reason to justify their expense to go racing.” So F1 made a mistake on the whims of the manufacturers because said manufacturers didn’t get what they wanted out of it? Can we be sure Renault aren’t now acting on a whim? For all the people who gave guff to Red… Read more »

MichaelB

Bingo! If Renault’s development efforts were going forward instead of backwards Cyril wouldn’t be saying this at all.

But he’s taking advantage of the fact that most people have really short memories and are using the engines as the reason why F1 is struggling. Even those with long memories are using the engines as a whipping post and Cyril’s just hoping on the bandwagon…

The Sarcastic SOB

Boyd, thats the way F1 has always worked: “We can’t make it work so it’s obviously dangerous and should be banned” is their motto.

Robert Rick

” What elements of F1’s current engine regulations have directly translated to your road cars?”.. I would not expect the mechanical devellopment to improve road cars. Formula one is marketing. The hybrid racers are more likely supposed to translate into a longing among consumers for a car with hybrid technology.

MIE

Thermal efficiency of road cars is around 30 – 35%. The current F1 hybrid power units are over 45% efficient. Unfortunately this message just isn’t being publicized by team’s, power unit manufacturers or the FIA, as a result all we seem to read about is the lower volume of F1 compared to the previous generation.
If this level of efficiency can be transferred to road cars it will dramatically reduce running costs.

geeyore

Right. “Power unit” efficiency will get me to my daily desk job and to Starbucks on slightly less gasoline. Excellent.

Yet somehow I don’t care one single whit about that when I’m watching F1 or WEC or V8 Supercars or IMSA.

I must be out of step with “the pinnacle of motorsport.”

The Sarcastic SOB

You’ll save even more gas when your Latte is delivered by an Amazon/Starbucks drone!

geeyore

Lol. I’m just waiting for the day when some FIA genius proposes that F1 be run in autonomous electric vehicles.

“Formula AutoE: the series formerly known as F1. Because it’s road relevant.”

MIE

Already happened I’m afraid:
http://www.fiaformulae.com/en/news/2015/november/formula-e-kinetik-announce-roborace-a-global-driverless-championship.aspx
OK, as a support series for Formula E, not F1, but it is out there.

Robert Rick

Sorry to reply late in this thread. Thermal efficiency is a good argument for using hybrid engines on road cars. But I’m not sure the idea of those engines in formula one is meant to translate to better efficiency of road cars. Car manufactores could probably more easily devellop technologies that improve road cars if they thought in solutions that were not also supposed to do the best job at the racing track. The race track is a very different place from the daily life on the road. I know formula one has a rumour of having led to improvements… Read more »

The Sarcastic SOB

But the rear-view mirror was invented in the early days of Indycars. So at least *one form of racing has benefitted road cars! lol

MIE

That is the only direct technology that I am aware has transferred from racing to road cars.

geeyore

That Formula One is marketing is precisely and exactly the problem we’re now witnessing. Manufacturers will always and in any racing series see it that way, although there are exceptions such as Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II (both of whom saw racing as intrinsic to their heritage and lifeblood, but for somewhat different reasons). I’m sure that consumers prefer “efficiency” in their grocery-getters and daily drivers. But this is motorsport and racing. Who at FIA and in F1 had the preposterous brainstorm that they could migrate the efficiency of consumer grocery-getters to efficiency as the benchmark for motorsport? It’s… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

So, I’m guessing that Renault has just realized that they’ve got egg on their collective faces and are now trying to backtrack on what they did.

228929292AABBB

I think this is very interesting but maybe not entirely fair to Renault. Just because they wanted the basic technology doesn’t mean they wanted F1 to delay it, then implement it with too little time left, and create regulations which did nothing to control costs or make other important accommodations. I think blaming Renault for hypocrisy is a little like taking a restaurant patron whose food is half raw and rotten and saying ‘oh well you ordered it and now you think it’s no good? Make up your mind!’ I think the tech is relevant, the world’s engines are moving… Read more »

MichaelB

I don’t really agree with the thought that Renault was forced to implement the engine with too little time left… Mercedes had been working on the engine for the current formula for several years prior to implementation. Renault, as one of the drivers for this formula certainly knew this was coming – and had just as much time to develop their engine as Mercedes. That argument is just like blaming the teacher when they give a class two weeks to complete an assignment and one student comes back and says that they need more time to complete the assignment because… Read more »

228929292AABBB

I think that’s not accurate, because Mercedes were able to develop chassis and engine together for years before the intro, something Renault could not do. That would be a fairer comparison of Mercedes and Ferrari. Regardless, the original point is unchanged – that Renault’s endorsement of the basic formula doesn’t make them responsible for the FIA’s lousy job of establishing regulations and executing the formula. The real misery of this engine layout has been the cost, and that could have been limited with intelligent regulation, which is outside Renault’s responsibility.

MichaelB

I disagree… The Renault engine is down on power, and while the design philosophy of the Red Bull/Renault combination has been less power but better handling, it’s been pretty clear that the weakness in the pairing for 2014-15 has been the engine and not the chassis. Even if the power wasn’t their main issue, Renault’s reliability the last two years has also been substandard. You can’t rack up points, let alone win a race, if your engines barf out all their parts and fluids partway through (or before you even get to) the race. The other weakness that Renault suffered… Read more »

geeyore

The concept of “road relevance” is and always has been a proxy for “production car marketing relevance.” There is nothing “road relevant” about racecars, other other than 4 tires and a driver. And no other racing series that I’m aware of that screams about it so much as Formula H(ybrid), because they know that they’ve taken a huge gamble and lost (that it was a known gamble was a clear subtext to the FIA’s 2014 technical brief). But we also now know that Mercedes and Ferrari make excellent high-performance hybrids. Thanks, very nice. As for Renault, I’m delighted that they’re… Read more »

Bryan Beecroft

F1, the pinnacle racing series in this World, does not need hybrids. Leave that to the WEC. Both Berger, Lauda, and just yesterday Jacques Villeneuve think the cars should be faster and craizier and, yes, louder. Is there a F1 fan that get enthused, technically, about batteries end energy recovery. F1 does not need to be “technically correct”

geeyore

It’s not just Berger, Lauda, and Villeneuve. Drivers, principals, mechanics, and other stakeholders have been lamenting Formula H(ybrid) from the outset. Since 2014, I can recall reported negative comments – with a wish for the previous faster, louder, better – from Vettel, Raikkonen, Webber, Horner, Riccardio, Massa, Alonso, Bernie, Mosley, and a host of commentators and other observers. The rules are a stranglehold on the sport, and seem to be disdained by everyone except Merc and others with a commercial interest in “hybrid” (hello Claire Williams). I believe that’s even the tacit message of this blog, although the concerns are… Read more »