Renault upbeat after restructuring F1 program for 2015

Renault will power just two teams in the 2015 Formula One season: Infiniti Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Renault Sport managing director Cyril Abiteboul is confident that a restructuring of the organization will pay dividends in 2015.

After a difficult debut with the V6 turbo – which nevertheless saw three victories for Daniel Ricciardo – Renault will supply only Red Bull and Toro Rosso this year, unless Caterham is able to survive in some form. Without Lotus on board, Renault has forged even closer links with the Red Bull teams.

“F1 constantly moves forward at a very fast rate,” said Abiteboul. “The sport evolves, technology evolves and the competition never sleeps so Viry needs to evolve at the same rate. Viry needed a refresh. We did not suffer from a lack of resources or finances in 2014, it was simply that the resources were not joined up in time or used to their optimum.

“In the short gap between seasons we have therefore taken a number of steps forward. First and foremost we have implemented a new organizational structure.

“This new structure will emphasize the need for perpetual change and adaptation within Renault Sport F1. This will be achieved through two new streams led by Rob White and Jean-Paul Gousset. As Chief Technical Officer, Rob will use his in-depth knowledge of Renault Sport F1 to set the strategy and road map for the acquisition, development and utilization of technical skills within the company. Naturally this will always be with a close eye on our F1 project.

“In parallel, F1 performance is driven by human performance. Jean-Paul, who was previously head of production, is now appointed as Organization Performance Officer, and becomes responsible for organizational matters, procedures and protocols, from the small details to the large changes that together create and harness the racing spirit we want to see in Viry-Châtillon.

“Another substantial change is the creation of the Development Department, headed by Naoki Tokunaga. In addition to overseeing the Engineering Department, which is still managed by Jean-Philippe Mercier, Naoki will be directly responsible for Performance and Reliability Groups. These two groups are tasked with clear responsibilities as their name suggests, and allow us to get closer to the organizational model of F1 teams nowadays. This should build natural bridges and synergies with our customers.

“The last noticeable change is that Rémi Taffin will now oversee all track and factory operations, including assembly and dynos, in addition to continuing to look after the track operations. Regrouping all operations under one person aims to bring the excellent spirit of the track to the factory, simplifies our lines of communications, allows us to simplifies our lines of communications, allowing us to respond to changes or needs more quickly and ensure overall quality control and cost efficiency towards our internal and external customers.

(From left) Christian Horner, Team Principal of Red Bull Racing, speaks with Cyril Abiteboul, Head Engineer of Renault Sport F1, at the 2014 Brazilian GP.

“It is still very early to see the direct effects but all the changes are made for long term gain. We should start to see the full impact in development by the mid-season with greater flexibility, dynamism and efficiency across all our operations.”

Abiteboul remains confident that Renault can do better than the three victories achieved with Red Bull last season.

“We knew what we had to do over the winter and we know what we have achieved. 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.”

In an illuminating Q&A issued by Renault, Renault Sport’s chief technical officer Rob White has explained what has been changed within the constraints of the FIA’s complex token system.

What are the challenges going into the second year of the power units?

Rob White, Deputy Managing Director (Technical) at Renault Sport F1, seen at the 2014 Belgian GP.

“Year two of a new engine is always difficult. The 2015 power unit project was started six months before the 2014 units took to the track, i.e. before we had any significant experience of the technology. Then we also need to consider the issues arising during the season. It creates a need to be both forward thinking and reactive. Splitting resources between projects is a delicate balancing act, in the short, mid and long term. While certain decisions can be taken upstream, a number of design decisions were taken quite late in the day, in order to benefit from the experience of the 2014 power unit. The result is a power unit that is very different to its predecessor.”

What are the principal changes to the Renault Energy F1 for the 2015 season?

“We have made some fundamental changes to gain performance and reliability. 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 center 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.”

This year the power unit is broken down into ‘tokens.’ How does this system work?

“This year there are regulatory limits to do with ‘token’ spend that determine the number of changes we can make. The power unit is divided into sections and then subassemblies associated to it. The total number of tokens within the power unit is equal to 66. Five out of the 66 tokens are not available for change as they are frozen. An engine manufacturer is able to select 32 token areas, or 48 percent of the engine, which he would like to change. As the technology gets more mature next year and beyond there will be fewer and fewer tokens available to spend. Clearly the juggling act we need to perform is which areas of the power unit are the most worthwhile to attack for performance reasons.”

F1: Security camera footage shows break-in at Red Bull's factory

How has Renault decided to allocate its tokens?

“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.”

What are your aims for 2015?

“First and foremost we need to run reliably, be quick and closer to front. Our honest expectation is that we will make a decent improvement but it is difficult to quantify the gain relative to our competitors who will also progress. What we can say is that we are on course to make a significant performance step and resolve the principal reliability weaknesses by the time we get to the first race.”