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Winning five races on the trot, Mercedes has taken over the role of Formula 1 dominator from Red Bull who won four titles in a row. The defending champions have struggled this year but it isn’t down to the chassis according to team boss Christian Horner.

Horner believes that Renault waited too late to begin development of their new V6 turbo engine and hybrid system telling Sky Sports:

“It’s quite simple really: we’ve had a massive engine regulation change and Renault have turned up and they weren’t as ready as some of their competitors were,” the Red Bull Team Principal told Sky Sports F1 at the Spanish GP.

“So we’ve been playing catch-up. They’re working tremendously hard at it and we’re slowly closing that gap down.

“As you can see we’re got a very good chassis, I just think that they started too late. It’s as simple as that.”

I find that a little odd as Renault have been used as a defense of the new regulations and sound of F1 by the FIA saying that they had to change to this new hybrid format because Renault was threatening to leave the sport if they didn’t make changes more relevant to their road car format—meaning a V6 turbo.

For an organization who was bullying F1 into changing over threats of leaving, I find the notion of them being unprepared a bit strange. One could argue that they were not completely committed due to the timing of the announcement of the new engine format but that doesn’t really hold water as they have been telling people about the change since Max Mosley was president of the FIA. Back then, it was a 4-cylinder turbo being discussed. Point being, the change was coming and Renault knew it.

Is this a case of finger-pointing? Assigning blame? Simple truth or something else? If we changed the format of F1 in order to keep Renault in the sport, it is a bit frustrating to know they were completely unprepared and waited too late to even create a decent system of which they demanded F1 use in order to keep them in the game.

Even Johnny Herbert is stumped:

“That’s a very good question and perhaps one you should ask Renault because they were the guys who pushed very hard for this regulation change, so one would have thought that they’d have been the most prepared for it.”

Color me reactionary but demanding something and then being completely caught off guard and ill-prepared is a bit of a slap in the face given that we have to endure such a drastic change in sound and experience in order to accommodate Renault and keep them happy and seated at the big boy table.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • UAN

    I don’t think it’s an either / or. It’s like this idea that 2nd place is actually first loser. Or if you don’t win, you ARE a loser.

    Renault is behind, but that doesn’t mean that they were uncommitted or caught off guard. If Merc had withdrawn from F1 this year, RB would be leading in both championships. And the Mercs advantage isn’t just the engine, else McLaren would be much farther up the grid.

    I think Renault came in, did a good job, but Merc did better and everyone can see where the bar is. F1 is always about development. You hope your base is at or near the front, but from there, it’s a development race. Renault is further behind then they had hope, but I’m sure they’ll get to where they need to be. It takes a little more time to change/improve the engine and the complex software mapping of all the components.

    • In addition, there is the KERS now full Energy Recovery System (ERS) inexperience of Renault Motorsport as well. Remember, Renault was not the provided of the KERS systems from previous 4 years. Each team with Renault V8 engines had to develop their own KERS and DRS systems. This situation started because Flavio Briatore made the decision for the works Renault team, than Renault Motorsport Engines group wouldn’t be contracted to cover the upcoming new KERS regulations. This Flavio decision flowed onto the other Renault V8 customers including Red bull.

      So now in preparation for 2014, Renault Motorsport had to pick up ERS design responsibility to fully integrate into a Power Unit system, with both MGU-K and new MGU-H inputs and outputs of electrical energy (motor/generator) and the Energy Storage systems and the complex software management systems to co-ordinate and OPTIMISE the energy flow/use for 2014 PU design.

      Renault engines team was a LOT MORE than behind the 8-ball, than other motor marques with years of KERS experience. The ICE bit of a new 2014 PU is the really low tech bit of a much larger complex animal.

      So where is the surprise that Renault was not kicking ass in Torque, Power, Braking balance, Energy harvesting, and Energy balancing in 2014. I don’t see the surprise guys ??? JF

      • UAN

        Good points, and Jeff’s as well. Between the two of you, F1B definitely offers technical insight into F1 on par with any other site out there – I greatly appreciate the insight.

        I also need to stop saying engine – it’s a power unit. Speaking of which, I heard mention on Sunday that Vettel had to take on a new component for his PU (I can’t remember which) and that it was his 4th (of 5) for the year. Reliability is getting to the point where we could see a driver like VET taking several grid penalties throughout the remainder of the season as they replace bits of the PU that keeps breaking down.

  • Finger pointing is never a good move, how do we know how fast the RB is when its stuck to the floor? right now the car is VERY fast round the high speed corners, it might go faster down the straights if they took some down force off,

  • rapierman

    This sounds a lot like someone screaming for the basketball but then find themselves unprepared to receive the pass because they didn’t have their hands up to receive it…because they didn’t expend anyone to respond to their request. If you want something, be prepared to get it and then do something with it, otherwise you’re gonna look like an idiot.

  • I think Mr. Horner’s being unfair here. It’s doubtful Renault was unprepared as such, as even even lay-people like myself can read the regs and see at least general avenues/development directions. As UAN posits, perhaps Mercedes just flat out did a better job or, as I also think, took a bigger risk.

    Jack, KERS and ERS are only related in the broadest scope; I’m sure Renault recognized the distinctions between KERS’ push to pass function and the 2014 integrated hybrid solution and the difficulties introducing that energy. Where IMO it and Ferrari differ from Merc is how they all prioritized energy usage and transfer. With the finite energy in a fuel-limitation and ERS output formula, one can focus on max ICE or sustained ERS power. I believe Ferrari took the former route, with Merc and Renault the latter, with Renault suffering development problems (shaft harmonics) which hampered its initial performance and development.

    Merc anticipated how significantly MGU-H’s unlimited turbo harvesting and -K/ES energy transfer could extend available power over multiple laps, and designed its entire package around it. The oft-mentioned “split turbo,” oversized turbo turbine, short-route intercooler setup… It all speaks of the team using excess turbine pressure to power-H, of minimizing boost lag to apportion more -H duty time to harvest vs/ lag control, of reducing heat on -H to enhance reliability and of -K being powered by -H rather than ES when possible.

    I run out of knowledge at this point, but my thought is Merc’s systemic approach was risky, but trusted in its development and testing. Renault took a more conservative approach that allowed recovery as issues are more isolated within a specific component, but perhaps limited overall system potential. Ferrari chased a fundamentally different energy flow avenue.

    As many have pointed out, Merc did a fantastic job integrating the designers in sum, chassis/aero guys advising engine gurus and vice versa; I wonder how well Renault/RBR and particularly Ferrari’s departments worked together, leading up to this season.

  • nofahz

    Years ago, way back in 2012, Peugeot withdrew from LMP1 after spending considerable time lobbying the ACO for the next gen regulation package. It included much that Audi were not thrilled about as it seemed the balance was shifted in favor of their competitior.
    The European financial crisis was very hard on French auto manufacturers. It’s effects caused Peugeot to withdraw from sportscars. Renault has returned to being an engine supplier in F1. They’ve pondered buying back into Lotus as they have no hospitality at races. There was no budget or enthusiasm from the board to do so. RedBull snubbed their branding by using partner Nissan’s luxury brand Infinity.
    I suspect it’s all down to budget and the fact that the engine program is somewhat viable on the balance sheet. Additionally Mercedes owns a team where they can control the chassis to power train packaging. Renault do not and have somewhat complicated relationships with their customers

    • I hadn’t seen Renault had considered purchasing Lotus; when was this, and is it still a consideration? As Infiniti is the luxury arm within the Nissan-Renault conglomerate, I’d think Renault fully vetted RBR’s engine/PU branding; could be wrong here.

      Budgetary constraints were/are of course an issue; good point on Europe’s ongoing financial crisis. As stated, I’m curious whether RBR/Renault’s relationship was as harmonious in developing the PU’s as Merc.

      UAN, flattering compliment, thanks, but I’m as full of poop as any other internet know-it-all; it’s all guesswork. Any reading my thoughts, please read w/ a deductive eye and skepticism; I know I do!

      • Upon further reflection, I guess it could be possible Renault objected to the branding switch; it wouldn’t speak well of the Nissan-Renault partnership.

        How hysterical would it be if Nissan/Renault or RBR pushed Dacia onto RB11?

  • The point Rapierman made was the route I was going, but with soccer used as the example. With double points being awarded in the final event, what if this mix up is a blessin in disguise?

    Think that Renault catches up and somehow becomes dominant, winning several of the last races and puttin themselves back in contention at least. Far fetched, but with the money not a question at this time, and Red Bull having an adequate platform and the defending champion, a person can hope.