After such a dismal Jerez test for the Renault powered cars, suggestions are surfacing as to what the causes of the issues are. It seems as though the Renault engine has required more cooling than the likes of the Mercedes or Ferrari equivalents which has caused significant issues for both Red Bull and Toro Rosso. The plot thickened on the final day, when the Renault powered Caterham managed to record 30 laps without engine issues. So, how have Caterham minimized the problems?
Image Credit: p_c_w (via flickr)
Caterham Running Cool
Contrast this with Red Bull. Adrian Newey has historically been bold with the packaging of his cars, prioritizing aerodynamic efficiency and in his defense, it has produced some remarkable championship dominating machines. However, Red Bull’s flaw for many years now has been KERS failures. These failures have been related by many analysts to the tight packaging, which explains why Mark Webber always suffered more than Sebastian Vettel – since Webber was taller, the already aggressive approach had to be heightened on his car, just to fit everything in. Consequently, his KERS would overheat easily. Heading into this year, Red Bull must have identified that the KERS issues of the past had to be resolved, as a failure in 2014 would be terminal for the car. However, Newey has perhaps underestimated the amount of cooling that the Renault engine requires.
On Wednesday morning, Newey had already made modifications to the RB10 which would suggest that overheating is indeed the issue, as the team made two extra air outlets on either side of the car, adjacent to the MGU-K and the MGU-H. Unlike Caterham, the packaging has not allowed for large air ducts at the rear of the car, meaning that the engine overheats. Toro Rosso are experiencing identical issues after having taken a leaf out of Red Bull’s design ideology this year. Ironically, their typical conservative design approach would likely have paid dividend this year. Both teams will now have to head back to the drawing board and a major repackage will surely be required before the next test in Bahrain.
Renault Deem Issues As “Unacceptable”
Following the first test, it is clear that Renault as an engine supplier have made mistakes. Renault-powered cars only completed 151 laps across the four days, while Mercedes clocked 875 and Ferrari recorded 444. Rob White, the Deputy Managing Director of Renault Sport F1, stated; “We have not run enough laps, and when we have they have not been run at an acceptable performance level. The underlying causes are not straightforward: there isn’t a single component or system that has caused particular trouble. A number of related things have been troublesome, principally concerning the control and operation of the various sub-systems of the Power Unit within the car. For example on the first run day, we had problems with a sub-system within the Energy Store that did not directly concern either the battery nor the operation of the battery – it is an electronic part that was in the same housing as the Energy Store.”
Neither the teams nor Renault are entirely to blame for the failures. It is a combination of mistakes on both sides which have caused the problems this week. Meanwhile, rivals are reveling, particularly Mercedes and Ferrari.
The Brackley based team racked up the most amount of laps across the week, with a total of 309 including the first race simulation run of the new era, completed by Nico Rosberg on Friday. It seems that they are the only team who were ready to do such a demanding run at Jerez, which suggests that as an entire package, they are currently leading the way. However, the Mercedes-powered Williams and McLaren outfits are seemingly not far away from a race run themselves.
Meanwhile, the Ferrari-powered teams have not enjoyed quite the bulletproof reliability of the Mercedes equivalents, but they have still had a hugely successful week. Two notable breakdowns for Ferrari were quickly solved and they still managed to rack up the second highest amount of laps in the team’s standings with 251. It is paddock rumour that the Ferrari powertrain is the most temperature efficient of all three units and this theory is supported by Ferrari’s aggressive packaging at the rear of the car. It is not dissimilar to Red Bull’s, yet the excellent self-regulation of engine temperatures has allowed them to look for aerodynamic efficiency. Like Mercedes, Ferrari seem to have a strong package and the flat nose approach is working for both parties, (but that is a story for another day.)
Back To The Drawing Board
After loosing an entire test to reliability issues, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Renault need to head back to the drawing board. My guess is that it will be a combination of a packaging solution and tweaks to the powertrain that make the car’s more reliable. The next three weeks are crucial. While Melbourne seems an age away, time will quickly disappear – The first test in Bahrain will be followed by the second within the space of a week, which will not allow major modifications to be made. Consequently, if they do not find a solution in the next few weeks, they could be heading to Melbourne with no idea if they can even last the race distance, let alone have a competitive package. However, the is Red Bull, so it would be foolish to count them out.