Renault’s Potential Safety Net

Following such a disastrous first test in Jerez for the Renault powered teams, it is unsurprising if the French engine manufacturer is feeling decidedly apprehensive ahead of the second test. While Renault are positive that this test will reap reward, they have suggested that a recurrence of the issues could trigger a “fair and equitable” regulation which will allow them to make further modifications beyond the deadline for the final submission of engines for the season. The question is, will Renault trigger this regulation? Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Caterham will certainly hope not.

Possibility For Dispensation

After four years of dominance, (five if you include the excellent 2009 campaign), Red Bull and Renault have formed a winning combination. However, ever since their partnership was first formed in 2007, there have been an admittedly short, but concerning list of gremlins. While Adrian Newey’s aggressive packaging undoubtedly extrapolated these issues, the almost championship ending engine failure for Vettel in Korea, or the altenator failures of 2012 have showed chinks in the Renault armour. They have not proved as bullet proof as Mercedes and Ferrari have of late. In addition, Romain Grosjean’s dramatic engine failure in the final round of last year was a recent reminder of the mortality of the engine units and cannot be attributed to Newey’s aggressive designs.  
The deadline for the 2014 engine units to be signed and sealed by the FIA is the 28th February. The regulations state that no fundamental changes can be made to the powertrain’s after this date. However, Renault have hinted that in the Bahrain test shows clear flaws remain in their unit, they could trigger a “fair and equitable” convention which allows them to make the necessary changes. “If we have any reliability issues it’s more difficult after you have applied for an engine for the year to make some changes,” Remi Taffin, Renault’s head of track operations told Autosport. “But there is still a ‘fair and equitable’ rule that exists that allows us to change any parts if we have any reliability problems, which we did in the past and I think we will still do it. Having said that, we are not saying we have massive issues on reliability because we have done some good tests on the dynos and we know that each part is working fine, we have to make it work together.”
Despite Renault’s claims that a solution has been found, the fact that they are hinting about the possible trigger for this regulation is undoubtedly concerning. If they had total confidence in their package, why would they feel the need to publicly raise the issue and the possible “get-out” clause. It all seems a touch concerning.
Meanwhile, if Renault do utilise this rule, where does it leave their competitor manufacturers. After working hard to construct the best possible powertrains on time, the rivals who have evidently not experienced such a successful winter receive an opportunity to close the gap in performance. If Renault were to use the time to salvage their engine unit’s prior to Australia, and Sebastian Vettel then wins the first round, would it not seem artificial?
I can image that Ferrari and Mercedes will rightfully feel aggrieved. Hopefully Renault have solved the issues and this hint towards dispensation is more of a red herring from the French manufacturer as oppose to a heads up. The situation could get very political considering Ferrari’s position in the FIA and no-one wants that so early in what could be an extraordinary campaign…    

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