Explaining Renault’s problems in Jerez

Renault had a miserable time in the Jerez testing. The company’s Rob White explains what happened.
“We have not run enough laps, and when we have they have not been run at an acceptable performance level,” he says. “The underlying causes are not straightforward: there isn’t a single component or system that has caused particular trouble. A number of related things have been troublesome, principally concerning the control and operation of the various sub-systems of the Power Unit within the car. For example on the first run day, we had problems with a sub-system within the Energy Store that did not directly concern either the battery nor the operation of the battery – it is an electronic part that was in the same housing as the Energy Store.

“We subsequently had problems with turbocharger and boost control systems with knock-on effects on the associated engine management systems, subsequently provoking mechanical failures.”

“Between days 1 and 2 with the help of Red Bull, we implemented a later level of hardware for the rest of the test to address the problem within the Energy Store. This ran for the remaining days. In parallel to running in Jerez, the team at Viry has run dyno test programs to investigate the trackside problems and to propose solutions. We identified the probable root cause of our main turbo control issues, implemented some workarounds that were first seen at the end of day 3 and deployed in the three cars for day 4. This established a very minimalist baseline from which we could build.”

The engines had done considerable running on the dynos before the test, why were the problems not spotted beforehand.

“We believed our initial configuration was a robust start point for track use but it has not proved to be the case. We have done substantial dyno running in a similar configuration with few issues. We now know that the differences between dyno and car are bigger than we expected, with the consequence that our initial impressions were incomplete and imperfect. L ll?

Our intention was to run the car; we are very frustrated to face this litany of issues that we should have ironed out on the dyno and which have deprived us of a precious learning opportunity.”

But the test did provide useful information?

“Absolutely, and at this stage every kilometre is hugely valuable. We recognize that when the cars have run, they are not running at an acceptable level. We are a long way from the type of operation we had planned and prepared for – largely as a result of the workarounds we have implemented – but all the information is useful. In dealing with the issues we have moved further away from the configuration we were comfortable with, which has resulted in the relatively slow times, but the running has given us a vastly greater understanding of the issues we face. We absolutely expect to have a more definitive solution in place for the next session in Bahrain.”

Did the Renault teams have the same problems?

“Several problems are common to all, as the power unit is the same specification in all the cars except for relatively minor installations differences. Some problems are particular to one installation environment, but it is our responsibility to deal with all of them.

“In general, the individual issues are understood; we have worked with all three teams running this week and despite appearances, have made some useful progress. We have not uncovered any big new fundamental problem, although we must recognize that our limited running makes it impossible to be certain.

“Of course we now have a large job list for Bahrain as a lot of the items we wanted to test in Jerez we have not been able to cover. The next stage is to identify the root causes for the problems we experienced, to develop the solutions to strengthen our validation process so we can be more confident to tackle Bahrain in a more normal way.”

In view of this test, are you still in favour of the new regulations?

“Yes absolutely. The powertrain regulations are a massive challenge but also an opportunity, and are hugely important in placing F1 back at the vanguard of technology. We have the necessary tools and determination to succeed.

“The step we must take to reach an acceptable level of in-car performance is bigger than we would have liked. It is unacceptable that we have not been able to mitigate the problems sufficiently to allow our partners to run at any length. We are working hard to correct this in time for Bahrain and aim to make amends there.”

54 thoughts on “Explaining Renault’s problems in Jerez

  1. I guess the question that’s missing is: “How long will it take to correct this?” But maybe that’s not too easy to answer as the planned fixes may always throw up something else…or not.

    1. Yes but RedBull is effectively the works team, one would assume that Renault has been in a working group with them in development and are fully aware how it was being packaged.

      Unless you believe Renault works in a vacuum, all this means is they had a whoopsy moment.

  2. Adrian always pushes the envelope, problems at this stage aren’t new to AN,I can tell you from personal experience that if everything is easy at this stage the rest are already behind.Beware.

    1. I do hope you are wrong – I for one don’t want another RB dominated season. if we had to lose the V8’s lets hope it is for real ebb and flow in competitiveness

  3. Making fun of the Renault teams is easy and somewhat justified because of their threats to withdraw from f1 if the new engine formula was not adopted but it is way too early to dismiss them for 2014. It is not where one starts but where one finishes. Plenty of time yet. But a little bad luck for RedBull might restore some fan interest to a flagging “sport”.

  4. Obviously someone somewhere had messed up big time. for the problems to only be encountered at the test track doesn’t really say very much for the 18months in-house dev & prep.

    yes, that is why teams test on the track and one would expect some issues to surface….but not of the magnitude witnessed over the past four days by red bull, and the others to a lesser degree.

    red bull employ massive firepower in their organisation and so do renault so if both of these entities get it so wrong then there appears to cause for alarm but of what magnitude is the burning question?

  5. “The underlying causes are not straightforward: there isn’t a single component or system that has caused particular trouble.” -Sounds like problems with no overnight fix.

    “Between days 1 and 2 with the help of Red Bull, we implemented a later level of hardware for the rest of the test to address the problem within the Energy Store.” -Did not helped much obviously.

    “Absolutely, and at this stage every kilometre is hugely valuable.” -Maybe something addressed undercovered to Lotus? As they would need more feedback.

    “Several problems are common to all, as the power unit is the same specification in all the cars except for relatively minor installations differences.”
    -Sounds like some bad hiding of problems.

    “We have not uncovered any big new fundamental problem, although we must recognize that our limited running makes it impossible to be certain.” -Confirmation of extent problems affecting not just one team, not only narrowed to power unit installation.

    For Mercedes and Ferrari its just a matter of time to face some problems.

  6. The problems this week really put into context Vettel’s post race radio messages at the end of last year where he kept on saying “remember this guys, it won’t always be like this”. They probably knew even at that stage that they were behind schedule and the new car was going to be a tough development.

  7. I think the last time I was this interested in testing was probably 1998, and back then I had to get updates from Auto Action… Its been great to watch so far. I can honestly say that I`m really excited for Melbourne this year.

  8. I’ve always wondered how everyone could be so sure beforehand that Mercedes was the engine to beat. After all, the development of the engines were done in secrecy so there was no way to compare them. Or were there?

    1. I’ve been thinking the same. Whoever started that rumour turned out to be spot on. The Merc is clearly the best followed by Ferrari with Renault a distant and lonely last.

        1. Are Mercedes or Ferrari fielding questions about their numerous problems and lack of running before scampering away to quickly sort everything out? Yes based on one test Mercedes look very strong, Ferrari pretty good and Renault not good at all. But obviously things can change.

          So you don’t think Mercedes-Benz are currently that engine to beat based on what you’ve seen so far?

          1. It is possible that you are right but my view is always to be cautious about testing because it does not always give a true picture of how things will be in six weeks from now.

            1. I totally agree with your take on testing in regard to pace, but when you can’t get your package together to run sustained laps to develop the feedback necessary to develop pace and reliability, surely it has to be a cause for concern?

              1. That’s my point. Early season testing is always important but this year it’s critical with completely new engines. After the first test Renault only have 151 laps compared with 875 for Mercedes. I don’t think Renault have run a full race simulation yet either (?) while Mercedes have run at least a couple already and are now starting to work on their speed.

                Beyond the engine problems though is the fact the Renault teams will be having trouble evaluating their chassis & aero packages due to the lack of track time. Simulators are fine but as McLaren found out last year there is sometimes a big difference between the simulator and the race track.

                But as always in F1 a lot can happen in a short amount of time!

            2. This time last year after the first test the mclaren looked like a good car. So like joe says you don’t really know anything until the end of testing at the earliest

              1. But Mclaren had the set the car up in a fast but illegal way, most pundits predictions were somewhere near after the 2nd and 3rd tests.

          2. No, but Ferrari have had questions asked re the lack of a separate debris containment enclosure while the other two engine manufacturers have included them at a cost of a few extra kilos in mass added. (This refers to a failure mode of the turbo, ie it disintegrating, bits of debris will be travelling at unbelievable speeds)

  9. Clearly Lotus (Team Enstone) are much less disadvantaged by missing the test than first feared and will have saved a bit of cash to boot!
    Got to say that I was underwhelmed when I heard the the Renault powerunit in the sound bite released by Caterham last week (it sounded like a flat wet fart) compared to the sound of Rosberg’s Merc in the Silverstone test – the Merc sounded muscular, gobbly (!) and fizzy! And i’m not a Merc fan tbh.
    On the upside Renault will have learned what it needs to do – and even I have learned something from the Jerez test – I think I better understand the root cause of the electrical issues on my wife’s Smart Roadster (made in France). Thankfully Merc is responsible for the tiny 700cc half a V6 under the engine cover!

  10. Is it a consequence of the system of long-term freezing of engine designs that the companies have to focus their staffing structure on manufacture and maintenance, and so don’t retain the people and competences they would need for fundamental new design and development?

    1. There is great emphasis on lifetime and failure mode prediction. With the large increase in electronic control involved in managing the new power trains the number of electrical components is increased. Many electric or electronic components have lifetimes directly related to their operating temperatures, thus the failure to cool effectively will shorten the predicted life of components hence also the circuits they are operating.

  11. I will wait and see how the first few races pan out. As I have said the real testing starts in Melbourne. I don’t think we will see anything definitive till Bahrain or China.

    1. True. That’s usually the case and will be even more so this year with the new engines. So many new things this year it will take a long time to see who is really the best. Should be a great season as everything slowly plays out.

  12. i very much doubt whether the manufacturer teams would be short of staff that are competent to take on such an ambitious project given the lead time that they have had . what i think may be part of the problem is simply devising solutions encompassing the integration all of the new and complex componetry [energy sources]so that output flows in a constant linear application.

    in essence, this is what has already been put into the public arena. whether or not it is the truth or simply a cover story that masks further deep seated problems. knowing the resources that are available to put in ‘the fix’ i would expect to see them somewhere near the very front of the grid come melbourne. then again i might be well wrong….

  13. I know he just became a father, but where is Vettel in all of this? Cancelling media appointments and leaving the circuit and in fact your team frustrated doesn’t seem the way to go. It’s reminding me a bit of the Vettel we heard when he got stuck behind Raïkkonen in Hungary.

    Why are RBR honcho’s largely letting Ricciardo do the sh*t shoveling? At this moment he’s pretty much the only one trying to lift the spirits within the team.

    1. Jerez schedule was done before they arrived.So very little to do with Vettel
      or drivers in general.And also its not a RBR issue its Renault a supplier
      And Vettel was hired as racer so its rather pointless to stay on when the car
      was not ready for racing.2014 regulation change was big but i did not include
      pedals so that he could help

  14. I’m with Joe, it’s very early to be getting hysterical. What matters is what position the engines are in on Saturday morning in Australia!

    However, clearly big challenges ahead for Renault and their customers to be as good shape as their competition by then. But F1 is all about challenges and very talented guys rising to them in very short timescales.

    Possible that the impact of Enstone’s absence is minimised. They can sit tight, save money, while Renault have identified problems and get on with trying to fix them. They wouldn’t have run much so haven’t lost much potential insight into their car. However, they are carrying a big risk that their packaging of the engine will have fundamental problems. Maybe the probability of this happening isn’t massive but the impact would be huge if they only discover it in Bahrain. I wish the team the best of luck (for the good guys working there, not necessarily the exec who don’t deserve it!).

    I also hope that all this will give Marrussia a leg up and a relatively hot start to the year. I’d love to see them get some points in the early races.

    Finally, the engine manufacturers have all invested an awful lot in this. Effectively making them do their first real fully packaged runs in a very public test seems unkind to them. A real possibility they will be caught with their pants down. While entertaining, it would have been kinder to those investing in the sport to have allowed limited private testing first, monitored by the fia if necessary. Kind of reminds me of the pirelli fiasco. F1 would be a more comfortable place for motor companies etc if F1 didn’t seem so happy for reputations to be trashed. Yes, if they genuinely cock up the racing, but not public humiliation due to promotors wanting borderline tyre, not enough chance to test etc. The teams need to pull together on this, commercials, budget caps etc. Of course they won’t, too many vested interests and diverse motivations, especially Ferrari who want to be perceived as the número uno F1 marque at all costs and Red Bull who want to win at all costs but as a marketing tool to sell drink, rather than to win to be the best racers and/or make a profit as an F1 team. Surely this is the time for the other teams to take advantage of The Bernard’s relative weakness. Step forward Ron and Sir Frank!!!!!! Nice to dream!

  15. Wow, what a nightmare for the Renault teams.

    Testing in Bahrain would have been great for all the teams last year but I bet they would much prefer to be shuttling back and forth from Spain this year.

    I had the thought last year that RedBull kinda knew this might happen so continued to out-develop the other 2013 cars to the extent that they dominated by a huge margin . Make hay while they sun shines eh? It certainly isn’t looking likely to shine for a while yet.

  16. Better to start with problems and work your way up than having good testing and suddenly unexpected problems during the season?

    Question for the more regulation-proof people here:
    Why not strap the whole F1 car on a dyno and do some testing, unlike putting only the engine on a dyno? Is this not allowed?

    1. Not sure what the actual regulations are, but I would imagine that, unless you’re going to put the car on (say) a 7-post rig in a 100% wind tunnel, testing the engine using the whole car is a bit redundant, as you can’t really simulate the airflow in any meaningful way. There’s no real substitute for getting it out on the track.

  17. Mercedes AMG look to be well ahead of the game but while their front wing failure will probably be an easy fix, their gearbox failure on day 3 after not a huge number of laps must be causing them significant worries.

    These things are supposed to be good for 5 race weekends. Designing out any inherent weakness and manufacturing new ones in time for the Australian GP must be a big challenge.

  18. Anyone making any predictions at this stage, based on what has currently happened at this one test, really does run the risk of getting egg on their face. At this time of year, teams are usually just gathering data for the simulator. This year there is an added dimension because of the presence of new power units that have never been used in an F1 car on an actual track, Although it could turn out to be absolutely correct – the Merc unit may well be the best unit out there and the Renault one behind in terms of development and reliability. It might not be. But there are some of the best engineers and designers in the world in F1 teams, that’s why they are there, so never rule out the possibility of the worst performing power unit here catching up, even in time for the first GP. That said, it is refreshing to see a good mix of team names being talked about and not having one dominating. Another potentially bad sign though as someone has previously pointed out is Vettel’s presence throughout all this. Or rather lack of it, to be accurate. To cancel scheduled media engagements and slink away is not a good sign and from the teams point of view sends out bad signals. He may have legitimate reasons for doing so, you never know. Or it may be a return to the former petulant behaviour where if things aren’t going well or not his way, the toys come out of the pram. If it’s the latter, then he would do well to be reminded the that it’s how well you handle the bad times, not just the good. It’s not how you win, it’s how you lose that’s the measure of a true champion..

  19. It is clearly too early to know which power unit will deliver the best racing performance in the end. By that I mean, once the units have all been sorted and running as predicted, the current test session at Jerez may not have been helpful in revealing the true character of the competitors. It was a healthy Tyson Gay looking faster at a workout than a hamstrung Usain Bolt limping along on the other side of the track, or more comparably, sitting on the trainers table.

    However, last season’s “Testgate” revealed an interesting argument from the likes of Red Bull. They proposed that F1 teams will always learn from on track running, and that 1000 kms of track time can reliably predict xx.xx seconds of improvement in lap times.

    And that was with bullet proof engines at the end of an engine development freeze era. Most of the purported improvements would thus be coming from chassis development.

    Whether or not the Red Bull “Testgate” argument was exaggerated by their effort to see Mercedes punished, it probably has some truth to it. McLaren came to Jerez last year with a car that had problems that ultimately saw them arrive at the first race of the year well off the pace and never able to catch up.

    Red Bull lost between 990-1,275 kms of track time this past week to their nearest competitors (Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes). On chassis development alone that represents a loss of pace found through development before considering time that will be spent backtracking to solve existing problems.

    The development pace in F1 is unrelenting we are told. How much capacity is there to accelerate it then in an effort to catch up? Money certainly can help, but CFD and wind tunnel time is now limited by regulation. Is this where Adrian Newey’s use of his anachronistic pen will give Red Bull the development equivalent of DRS to catch up? I assume they haven’t regulated against the use of that.

    You don’t really have to speculate to understand that Jerez puts a lot of extra pressure on Red Bull and other Renault powered teams regardless of ultimate performance potential of the designs they had penned. It will be a fun story to follow and interesting to see if it has an ultimate impact on deciding this year’s championship.

  20. One has to wonder if Newey’s brilliance and pushing of the envelope has led to another MP4-18, or at least something fairly troublesome. He isn’t great because he plays it safe.

  21. The real pressure must be in Maranello, with Renault and Red Bull on their back foot, a shift away from aero back to engine, if they still don’t win this year there are no excuses left.

  22. I am sure this was not you asking the questions as especially that last one is a bit daft to ask after test one following the biggest engine rule changes in 2 decades.

  23. it is refreshing to see daniel ricciardo batting on in such a positive fashion. vettel could have at least played a better game rather than slink off into the darkness. at this stage optimism helps to lift the team move on to better solutions. well done dan.

  24. My hunch is that with much more electrical energy flying around they are experiencing unanticipated electromagnetic interactions. Grounding is critical in such matters, which could explain the defference between the dyno and the track, not to mention Newey-style shrink wrap design philosophies. At a guess the extremes of the technical knowledge required would be outside the focus of even an ultra-capable F1 engineering team, which would not only catch them out, but hamper their ability to respond in their usual manner. Just a hunch.

    1. I Speak to folk who think managing EMC on trains in hard enough, I can only imaging what the packaging demands of a Newey designed F1 car do to segregation,, you might be on to something, unless it just plain overheating more in the Red Bull….

  25. Statements Kobayashi: "They had warned us before coming here they were quite late and when I asked if they were surprised by the results of these tests, they replied in the negative because they do not succeed. not to meet deadlines and are late. " Moreover Renault had asked the FIA ​​to decaler tests a week, it was denied.

  26. In the context of Renault’s troubles I find Rob White’s statement about the new power train freeze date rather interesting:

    “The homologation deadline is the end of February and is fundamental to regulations. Beyond that time, changes are permitted only with prior approval from the FIA. Change is not forbidden, but subject to the sporting regulations and we should not get so hung up on this date.”

  27. It reminds me a little bit of 1989. Ferrari couldn’t run a full-race simulation before the first race because of gearbox problems. They were fiddling with new techology, i.e. Barnard’s new semi-automatic.

    Guess who won in Rio!

    1. I believe that particular pilot missed the early flight he’d booked because the car didn’t fail as expected… Although, this may just be one of those rumours/legends that sometimes develop. I’d love to know whether it’s ACTUALLY true. Joe?

      1. Yes, it is a true story. Mansell booked an early flight out because he was sure the car would break. Much to the amazement of everybody it won the race. It was fun. I was there!

  28. Now that we know how it went for Renault, what do we think about this Ferrari car for an unknown category that has been seen running a little while ago… Did Ferrari avoided a disaster like Renault’s recent one by doing these test that where probably for this engine ? Is there any mention that Mercedes did something similar to Ferrari, looking at the mileage they putted in the first test ?

    Being French, I am a supporter of Renault, and I am disappointed by what I have seen, especially because they were previously saying they will be good engines… There was a lot of advertising made by Renault, probably more than from the other teams….

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