A parting gift for Red Bull but a litmus test for Renault?
Inevitably, as the nights begin to draw in across Europe, teams and engine manufacturers are driving towards 2016. After all, stretching the purse strings to add improvements to a car which is destined to spend the majority of its future as a museum piece is hardly a viable option. As such, developments are made with next year in mind and in the case of Red Bull and Renault, attention has been firmly on 2016 for quite some time. The eleven tokens spent by Renault ahead of this weekend’s US Grand Prix are most likely to be with a eye to a works team future in mind – a litmus test for the unit which could power the first fully-fledged Renault F1 Hybrid.
Nevertheless, Renault’s litmus test also promises to deliver a parting gift to their current but soon-to-be-former partners Red Bull. An eleven token update is an expensive development package and it comes as a result of Renault holding their cards close to their chest throughout the year. The French marquee have waited for the perfect moment to introduce what they hope to be a step-change rather than simply react to the previous token-expenditure of their rivals.
It is however, a bold strategy. Introducing several alterations at once can mean that the weakest part is harder to uncover and resolve. In addition, it has meant that there has been an agonizing wait for customers Red Bull, who, like every other team, wanted performance improvements yesterday.
It remains to be seen whether Red Bull will even run the new powerunit in Austin. In order to fit the latest specification engine, both cars would have to take grid penalties as it would mean taking a brand new unit for both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat.
The pitch will surely have to be convincing from Renault. Other than a performance improvement for the final four rounds of the season, there is little motivation for Red Bull to run with the latest Renault design. If that performance improvement is not deemed to be sufficient compensation for what promises to be a hefty grid demotion, then it could lead to another argument.
However, this scenario is highly unlikely. The Circuit of the Americas is certainly not Monaco and a grid penalty is certainly not a weekend-breaker. Anything which gives Red Bull a chance of some more champagne at the end of what has been a rather barren year is surely going to be swallowed up. Both parties have something to gain by putting this highly anticipated Renault update through its paces.
Image Credit: "DSC_7503 Red Bull F1 - Daniel Ricciardo" By Thomas Timlen (via Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0]