Red Bull – Renault tension continues beneath a veneer of calm


If Christian Horner were the CEO of a proper organisation that had to actually make something or provide a service that people would pay good money for – repeatedly, his tenure at the top may be short lived.

When commercial entities make huge mistakes, they must first admit the errors of their ways and secondly purpose to do better – in order to regain and keep the trust of their customers.

Red Bull racing have persistently pressed their ‘engine supply department’ (they consider themselves after all a works team) to bring upgrades to their power unit since the season off in Australia.

Down under, Renault delivered an engine with greater performance as requested by RBR, however it was not tested to the reliability standards Renault had set out in the development programme.

The result was the Red Bull cars were quicker than in testing – yet they pay back was equally predictable from a Renault perspective. Danny Kvyat didn’t make it to the starting grid.

We were then provided to a spectacular Royal Rymble of words over the next few weeks, as Red Bull Racing’s senior figures repeatedly lambasted their engine supplier in public.

Spice Boy described the French manufacturer’s engine programme as “a bit of a mess” and guru designer Adrian Newey observed there appeared to be no “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Cyril Abiteboul responded in a manner not typical of a French stereotype, and began by complementing Guru Newey. “Adrian is a charming man and an outstanding engineer but he has spent his life criticising his engine manufacturers. And he’s too old to change.”

The with just eight words, delivered like the swift of hand required from Madame guillotines finest operator, he added: “It’s hard to have a partner who lies.”

Renault began to produce numbers suggesting the RB11 was not in fact Newey’s finest creation and should shoulder a significant proportion of the blame for the failure of the overall package of chassis and engine. This was difficult to refute given Toro Rosso’s relative performance with the same and at times older iteration of the Renault power unit.

It was all down hill from there, “You smell…,” and, “he smells worse… .” and even “they all smell of garlic over there.”

The rhetoric grew and grew until eventually a truce was called.

The good doctor Marko came to the rescue and told Servus TV, “All of this criticism was due to emotions that were all quite understandable.” Apparently liar in French doesn’t mean the same as in English and German – so all was well with the world once again.

“In fact, perhaps the comments themselves were not even so hard,” Marko explained, “but the translation of Cyril’s words from French made it sound very harsh.”

So what was the plan to prevent this civil war from breaking out again – and make the truce last at least to the half way point of the season?

“We have met,” Marko confirmed, “and decided on how we will work during the remainder of the season. We do not have to love each other, but we do need an engine that works.”

Renault’s gripe was that Red Bull continual pushed them to deliver incremental performance, when they first wanted to deliver reliability and then turn up the Horse Power. The latter approach of course leads to many more engine failures and 25 place grid penalties.

One of Renault’s ideas for deploying engine development tokens has been to examine the concepts with single cylinder prototypes at their base in Viry Chatillon.

Christian Horner told SKY F1 at the British Grand Prix, “As far as I am aware I think that they [Renault] are making good progress on their dyno, They now have some strategic decisions about implementation, and the direction they want to take their development for the rest of this season – and that has an enormous impact on next year.”

However, Red Bull have Force India breathing down their neck in the constructors’ championship and are again desperate for improved performance as Horner admits.

“Like any competitive team we want performance yesterday, and unfortunately with engines the lead time is a lot longer than with the chassis. Patience is something that we are not really good at. We want to have performance as soon as possible…”

Whether this pressure will spark a renewed public war of words – possibly even before the season is even half way over – we shall know in the coming week.

The timing of the next round of Red Bull – Renault recriminations will likely be influenced by the performance of the teams chasing Red Bull for fourth place in the championship.

At the last race in Silverstone, Red Bull again failed to get both cars to the finish. Meanwhile, Force India who are still getting to grips with the best way to configure their new 2015 car matched the 8 points scored by Red Bull, and are quietly hoping to be even stronger next time out in Hungary.

Vijay Mallya is clearly delighted with the arrival of this seasons racing car – despite it being 6 months late – and described it in the Friday Press Conference at the British GP as looking, “lean and mean”.

11 responses to “Red Bull – Renault tension continues beneath a veneer of calm

  1. So the failings of the power unit are the fault of…Red Bull.

    I know that you (and others) love to run the anti-Red Bull line, but this is just silly. For example, the “Red Bull made us run unreliable upgrades” line. That’s just repeating Renault spin.

    The principal problem with the Renault engine earlier this season was its piston design. It was so bad they had to junk it and revert to the 2014 piston design. You can’t lay the blame for that at anyone but Renault. No one in Red Bull is responsible for designing any part of the ICE, whether pistons or otherwise. Renault had all the time in the world to properly design its 2015 pistons but botched it.

    Nobody pushed harder for the current generation of engines than the French manufacturer. As early as 2013 Red Bull were expressing concerns about whether their engine partners were devoting sufficient resources to the development of the new PUs, but were ignored.

    Of course, who can forget the disastrous 2014 pre-season when the Renault engined teams ran the fewest laps of any of the three engine manufacturers. Only the urgent extra resources thrown at the problems by consultants brought in by Red Bull (eg. remember the Toro Rosso on the rolling dyno) got the PU to a point where it could round reliably at the 2014 season opener.

    Remarkably, despite the clear shortcomings of its PU compared to the Mercedes unit, Red Bull were still able to win 3 races in its 2014 season, a testament to the strength of the the RB10 chassis.

    Come 2015, and given the known shortcomings of its 2014 unit, you might expect that Renault would throw whatever resources Were required to take a significant step forward. Indeed, few remember it now but Renault’s press material for the release of its 2015 PU claimed that its peak power output was 850 hp, a significant increase from the previous unit. If only!

    In fact, we now know that Renault managed to produce a 2015 PU which achieved the remarkable trifecta of less power, poorer drivability and even worse reliability compared to its 2014 unit.

    The worst of the drivability issues have now been fixed, and reliability is improving (though still not at Mercedes or Ferrari levels) but the engines continue to run in degraded power modes and at a significant deficit to its competitors (bar the even more hapless Honda).

    Incredibly, despite having the most remaining tokens of any manufacturer, not one has been spent to date and we are unlikely to see any upgrades until the second half of the season. Indeed, any upgrades which might actually close the gap in a meaningful way to Mercedes are still being dyno tested and will at best be introduced in the last few races of the season. There is a real chance that some tokens will go unspent.

    This is a tale of catastrophe from start to finish, and the responsibility lies squarely with Renault. Blaming Red Bull might appeal to the masses, but the fact is that the design and manufacture of the Renault PU is the job of the folks at Viry, no one else.

    • @ viper…i agree 100% with your summary. as you say, people just love to diss on red bull in the mistaken belief that it is their problem. if renault had produced a decent PU then none of this would’ve occurred. they have gone backwards and it is their fault…alone.

  2. It’s hard to judge what’s going on here. STR is more or less where it has always been, nothing seems up with their PU performance.

    Red Bull have fallen a long way but that can’t all be down to the PU, it’s not like they had the stand out best engine when they were dominating. I think a lot of the problems here are caused by stubbornness. The current generation of cars are fragile compared to pre 2014, it’s almost like Red Bull just stick their fingers in their ears and make a car that sails just too close to the wind, knowing full well it’s going to break down.

    The more it goes on the more it just stinks of incompetence. Red Bull seem a team that simply has no idea what to do when they’re not sat out in front.

    • Isn’t max uplifting the whole torro Rosso performance? I mean he’s nearly world champion. 😂

  3. RBR will try to do everything to make Renault break the contract for 2016. Simple as that.
    And again. If you are in a sport and invest hundreds of millions to win, than an engine like a Renault for the last 2 years (or Honda this year) is absolutely unacceptable and a disgrace. Despite delivering championship winning engines in the past. The past is the past.
    All this bullshit about deploying tokens later this year…. In fact those engines were originally supposed to be ready end of february 2015. They got lucky but still ff up. Renault deserve all the critic they get (and Honda too) until they get their act together.
    How come they now have money to buy Lotus, pay for Lotus debt and I assume also to upgrade the engine facilities? Why not use that money earlier to make sure you got a good working powerful powerunit when the season started in 2014?

  4. Has anyone noticed that while Red Bull has stopped with blaming everything on Renault it’s now the Toro Rosso boys who are complaining about engines that are not fast enough. It seems Red Bull realizes that as long as the Toro Rosso car is so fast Red Bull has no right to complain about performance.

  5. Christian Horner forgets that haste makes waste. Let Renault keep testing the new developments on the dyno. If they’re brought forward without proper testing, the power unit will give up the ghost and Red Bull will have more DNF’s more power unit used, etc. I look at it as throwing a power unit directly in the rubbish pile if it’s upgrades aren’t properly tested first and that takes time.

    Money is the sole reason that they are pushing Renault as hard as they are. Dietrich and Helmut probably have one eye on Red Bull Racing balance sheet as all of this is going on because the constructor’s points mean a good chunk of money. I can see Renault buying the Lotus team at the last possible moment and then breaking their contract with Red Bull as their power unit supplier for 2016.

    One reason why the Red Bull cars are struggling may be because of Adrian Newey’s compact chassis design which effect the power unit’s cooling and would effect its performance.

  6. “If Christian Horner were the CEO of a proper organisation that had to actually make something or provide a service that people would pay good money for – repeatedly, his tenure at the top may be short lived.”

    …as apt a statement about Horner – and Red Bull -as could possibly be made.

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