Renault’s 9 year F1 plan looks set to fail from the off

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Renault have been managing expectations since the day they acquired the Genii-owned Lotus team. This of course deflects potential pressure from fans and the media alike, however it raises the question of Renault’s understanding of the commitment required to make it back to the top – or even top four – in Formula One?

With a somewhat fatalistic mentality, Renault’s Chairman Carlos Ghosn argues, “three years ago, Red Bull was dominant for five years, and people said ‘oh my god what is going to happen?’ Change comes.” Ghosn continues, “there is a beginning and an end for everything and we will be very happy to participate in this uncertainty about victories in F1.”

However, to keen F1 observers there appears to be an ever increasing certainty that Mercedes are set to dominate Formula One for a number of years to come. The 2017 ‘big change’ regulations designed to throw the deck of cards up in the air and give someone else a chance of a breakthrough silver bullet have already been watered down significantly and could yet fail to be agreed for implementation before 2018.

There is no reason why Mercedes are not on course for a dominant era similar to the years between 1999 and 2004 when Ferrari racked up six constructors titles one after the other. Ferrari at present appear to be fearful as to whether they have reduced the gap to Mercedes for 2016. Sergio Marchionne revealed over the winter break, “If I was to give a tip to myself and the team colleagues, it is to be extremely afraid of their rivals.”

The Scuderia team principal agrees with his boss, “we’re working very hard, we’re very tense, we’re terrified because we’re afraid of the future, so we’re not relaxed,” said Arrivabene.

One reason may be because Andy Cowell – the main man at Brixworth, where the Mercedes power unit is built – believes there are still huge gains to be found in the V6 turbo hybrid’s performance. This view is also expressed by Adrian Newey who describes the power units as “still in their infancy.”

So are Renault in need of a reality check, and do their ambitions need to be higher?

Alain Prost disagrees. In fact the quadruple F1 driver champion is lowering the bar even further when he tells AMuS, “Winning the world championship is not necessary for Renault,” despite the French team having laid out a nine year plan for their Formula One team. Prost adds, “for Mercedes or Audi, winning is much more important, while for us the world title would be a bonus.”

The Red Bull aerodynamics guru Adrian Newey hit the nail on the head earlier this week when he accused Renault of being unrealistic in terms of their spending commitment to make it back to the top of the F1 tree. In the chase to catch Mercedes Newey states, “manufacturers like Renault – who are not willing to spend the money – the gap will become bigger and not smaller”.

The utterances from Prost and Ghosn appear to reveal a lack of self-belief from Renault and indeed possibly a realisation that the F1 game is up for the medium term. Formula One championships are not won on a round-robin basis – ask McLaren and Williams – and Ghosn’s hope that the merry-go-round will eventually turn Renault’s way reveals the gulf between what is being done by Renault and what is required.

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21 responses to “Renault’s 9 year F1 plan looks set to fail from the off

  1. I doubt Red Bull is privy to Renault’s plans. I would bet Renault cannot wait for Red Bull to fly off and hassle some other organization, they are like a nonstop negative ad.

    • Renault does not even build the engines in house which makes them slow to react and more difficult to develop new tech as their Mechacrome partner would need to develop the tools for it. They have a failed base design and need a token free period to design a new engine. While at the same time developing this one. And they have got to pay for it themselves now, without the TR contract and possible loosing RBR’s contract. Is Renault ready to throw that kind of money at it? By the looks of it they are not.
      At the end of this year the Renault works team will likely finish behind Manor-Mercedes. Their power deficit is such that no amount of aero or ‘nando can win back the time that the others gain with an extra 100bhp and ERS efficiency. Their current chassis looked very good with a Mercedes engine in it, before that is was nowhere with a Renault. Oh yeah, now it can benefit from Renault/Renault integration like Mercedes….. Right…. They have three years of catching up engine wise and 2 years on the chassis side, while the others are still throwing more money and more brains at it. All Renault counts on is luck.

  2. I am just happy that F1 still has a Renault/Infiniti presence and is willing to spend money here versus any number of more inviting series.

  3. I think Renault are right to play things down for now, and there’s really not much benefit in them pushing the engine development next year…. Even with the best engine, their late takeover at Lotus would likely make it very difficult for them to make a ‘winning’ car….therefore why bust a gut and a load of money on next year’s engine, when the only team that could take advantage of it would be Red Bull?
    Much more sensible for Renault to keep calm and wait/hope for the 2017 engine regs to be opened up, and spend all the money they can developing for that, and in-line with whatever plans they have for their own car.

    • May as well look at it as a year to collect data on the PU aimed at making changes in 2017.
      As far as Mercedes go ? They will likely hit the peak of their PU design before the others do.
      However one can hope that Ferrari and Honda close the gap enough to make things a bit more interesting.

      • taperoo2k, “As far as Mercedes go ? They will likely hit the peak of their PU design before the others do”.
        Ironically, that’s what everyone, myself included, hoped for the 2015 season. That went well.

        • Thermal efficiency is where Mercedes have been particularly strong (you can argue that has had more of an impact than the split turbo design if you want to get really geeky about it), and it won’t be a surprise if they manage to reach 50% thermal efficiency in 2016. Thermal efficiency is the key to making the most of the fuel flow limits.
          Renault have a myriad of problems with their PU to sort out so don’t expect miracles from them. Ferrari and Honda have a better chance at catching up with Mercedes if things go as planned for them.

          The thing with Honda’s compact PU design is that if they can make it reliable and get an ERS system that actually works, coupled with the tight packaging (that has many aerodynamic advantages) from McLaren, then they may well be able to challenge Mercedes at certain tracks. Though I don’t think that will be the case this season. It’ll be another season of ironing out the bugs and reliability issues.

    • Replace 2017 with 2018. Now one starts test-designing the 2017 chassis and ex-Lotus is in no measure to do so. 2017 is compromised already, 2018 is the target me thinks. Until then RBR won’t pay “more” for a better engine, so as you say, why benefit redbull?

  4. I think the key is in the new token free situation. Even if the technology is still young, it will mature and then it ends up with roughly the same amount of horsepower as the others.

    Just give them 4 – 6 years and they’ll be fine.

  5. Do you think it would be a good idea to ban works teams? The powertrain manufacturers would then have to provide identical engines to any team they supplied. That way there is an incentive for the manufacturers to make winning engines that any of their supplied teams could use for victory. The teams could change supplier every year if they want and shop around for the best price for best results. Each team would then have to design the most efficient chassis and aero package and try and attract the top drivers. So skill instead of pay drivers. It might encourage more engine suppliers into the sport and it might make things more interesting. Just a thought 🙂

    • What would happen to Ferrari then for starters?
      And the way the regs are now, everyone would be fighting for a Mercedes engine, even Ferrari……..

  6. Let’s not be foolish! Just take a look at Renault’s success in Formula one since their involvement in the 80’s. No one has found success like Renault. Review the statistics and you’ll see; they have found success decade after decade. Mercedes, Ferrari, and even the almighty Honda (who, aside from the McLaren dream-team years have had an absolutely embarrassing string of failures) fail to compare in any meaningful way. My money is on Renault…..wait and see!

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