As Renault head into the 2015 Formula 1 season, they had a large performance deficit to overcome. While tensions grew amongst the French engine supplier and its customers—with Lotus F1 leaving for greener pastures at the Mercedes farm—but patience prevailed and the team took copious notes in order to improve their power unit for this season.
Renault has made internal changes along with the performance upgrades allowed for their engine. What may be intriguing is just how many “token” Renault used in order to prepare for the star of the season. This has an impact on Honda’s return tot F1 as the average of unused token between Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari will be given to the Japanese engine maker for upgrades in-season. If Renault is any indicator, Honda may not have many chances to upgrade this season according to Chief Technical Officer, Rob White:
“We have used the majority of the tokens for the first race and our use of tokens during the course of the season will be relatively modest. It then becomes a matter of strategy about when you introduce the remaining tokens; whether to introduce at the start of the season when the technology is relatively immature but could give greater relative performance, or later in the season when the part has had more testing miles but the impact on performance will be potentially less.
We can still make changes for reliability under the sporting regulations. We have therefore prioritized token spend to make as much headway as possible with performance.”
This may be a common theme as both Renault and Ferrari are behind in performance but we’ve asked the question about how effective waiting to upgrade might be and it seems that Renault feel that nascent technologies might be better developed throughout the season and it could be more prudent to allow a few token for this innovation curve. So what exactly have Renault focused on in 2015?
“We have made some fundamental changes to gain performance and reliability. We have upgraded every system and subsystem, with items that will give the most performance prioritized. The principal changes involve the internal combustion engine, turbocharger and battery.
The ICE will have a new combustion chamber, exhaust system concept and variable trumpets, as permitted by the 2015 regulations. The compressor is more efficient, while the energy recovery systems are able to deal with more severe usage. The 2014 unit was already well placed in its centre of gravity, however we have tidied up the packaging to give greater ease of integration into the chassis.
Additionally many systems and functions have been rationalized and simplified to further ease the task. In short, there are very few carry over pieces between the 2014 and 2015 power units.”
A real bugbear for 2015 will be the reliability factor as they calendar now boasts 20 races but the regulations have only allowed for four engines for the entire season. This could be a real impact on the teams and championship and it has been a major focus for Renault given their reliability issues in 2014:
“Admittedly last year our reliability record was not the best we could have hoped for but we worked very hard in this area and made some real improvements on reliability in the second part of the year. In fact we already had 2015 in mind last year as we ran all parts to the life expected this season”, said Director of Operations Remi Taffin
“That is, instead of running for the distance demanded by a five-per-year cycle, we tested them based on a four per-year cycle, or 20% more than required. Even though we pushed the parts harder than they needed to go last year, it gave us the starting point for 2015.
Having just four units to play with this year certainly gives us less flexibility and when a part has an issue it will be a lot more difficult to use again. However we feel prepared knowing that the parts have been running to the lifecycle needed for some time with few issues.”
Renault has a lot of ground to make up and how much ground they take at the beginning of the season will impact not only their season and the season of Red Bull and Toro Rosso but also Honda’s season as well.