Renault makes ‘fundamental changes’ to power unit

Renault says it has used the winter to make “fundamental changes” to its power unit ahead of the start of the 2015 season as it aims to close the gap to Mercedes this year.

Renault struggled under the new engine regulations in 2014, with its V6 turbo proving unreliable at the start of the year and a long way short of rivals Mercedes in terms of performance. Engine development was unfrozen at the end of the season and Renault has been working hard to bring performance to its new and improved power unit. In a press release the manufacturer claimed the combined output of the engine and its energy recovery systems stands at 850bhp.

“We have made some fundamental changes to gain performance and reliability,” chief technical officer Rob Whit said. “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.”

Changes for 2015 have to made under a token system in order to stop costs running out of control. An F1 power unit is made up of 66 tokens under the FIA regulations, and the manufacturers have been given 32 to play with in 2015. Not all the development tokens have to be used ahead of the start of the season, but Renault is planning to spend the majority in time for the first race.

“We have made lots of changes to the power unit across all areas from last year,” head of operations Remi Taffin said. “We won’t go into specifics about each and every part we have changed, but we will arrive in Melbourne with a very different engine to last year. This year we can cash in up to 32 tokens over the season and we plan to use a great deal for Australia, with some saved for use during the year to give flexibility.”

White added: “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.”

Managing director Cyril Abiteboul is hoping the result of Renault’s progress over the winter will see its two teams – Red Bull and Toro Rosso – being much more competitive in 2015.

“We knew what we had to do over the winter and we know what we have achieved,” he said. “We believe we have made a very big step in performance and will be more reliable. We do not know where the others will be: we may not have erased all the gaps, but we are confident that we have gone a long way to making up the deficit of last season. Our objective is to close the gap as much as possible and give Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso a more competitive car on most circuits, independently of their characteristics and sensitivities.”