Ever since the winter pre-season test at Jerez in 2014, the relationship between Red Bull Racing and Renault has been rocky due to the performance of the power unit supplied by Renault to their partners.
However during the course of the 2014 season, Renault and Red Bull were able to work closely together to try and close the gap down to Mercedes as much as they possibly could and were able to win three races thanks to Daniel Ricciardo. Throughout the season, Renault admitted publically that they had started late on their power unit and didn’t expect to be performing at the level they were at.
Meanwhile, Red Bull throughout 2014 were not happy with Renault but did publically support their engine manufacturer despite claims of Red Bull looking into finding another engine supplier or even looking at building engines themselves as early as 2016 which proved to be untrue and unfounded.
At the end of last season, both parties were confident in each other’s abilities to close the gap down to Mercedes, learnt their lessons regarding their performances from the 2014 season and will have a power unit that should reflect the result of their hard work.
During pre-season testing, Red Bull and Renault had a mediocre time; but it was not as bad as the 2014 season which saw them fail to acquire sufficient mileage on their rivals such as Mercedes who dominated the way with regards to mileage, consistency and also performance on the Jerez and Barcelona circuits.
As we speak at the moment, Red Bull and Renault are in the midst of a public fall out that appears to be worsening as the days go on. Both parties have been trading words in the media regarding each other’s performances since Melbourne with each other believing that their lack of performance is at each other’s doors.
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During the weekend in Melbourne, Red Bull’s drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat were not happy with the performance of the V6 power unit claiming that it was “virtually undriveable” while also it is to be believed at least 100 horsepower down on their rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.
With Ricciardo taking to take a second engine out of the four allowed this season at the first race in Australia and Kvyat suffering from oil pressure which stopped him making the start of the Grand Prix, it would seem that all was not well at Red Bull and Renault once again and would appear that the steps they made last year have not transferred at all.
As a result of their poor performance in Australia, Renault have announced that they are undergoing an “aggressive development programme” and they believe that the information gathered as allowed them to make progress regarding refining their engine software that should help their customers in Malaysia,
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner stated after Australia to the press that an engine equalisation rule should be enforced into the sport in order to stop the gap from Mercedes increasing further.
On social media such as Twitter, fans of the sport did not agree with what Horner has suggested; with many fans suggesting that Red Bull needs to concentrate on working closely with Renault to close the gap to Mercedes as much as they possibly can and to “grow up”.
Over the course of this week, Renault and Red Bull’s already tense relationship just got a bit more strained with the engine manufacturer’s boss claiming the F1 team are “lying” about certain issues.
Red Bull designer Adrian Newey, who has taken a back seat this year after playing a major role in helping the team to four back-to-back World titles, suggested ahead of the Australian GP that their engine partner “doesn’t seem willing to engage” so that they can sort out their problems.
In an interview with The Guardian, Newey suggested the following about why Red Bull are not performing on the track in the manner they would like as follows:-
‘It’s one thing being in the position where you’re not competitive but you can see your way out of it. It’s another thing when you’re not competitive and your partner doesn’t seem to be willing to engage.
‘I honestly don’t know the reason for it. It seems to be: ‘Yes, we hear you say’, talk. In pre-season testing, we had 12 days and a filming day in which I think we had six major failures. So our mileage was very restrictive through engine problems and as measured by the torque sensor through those tests, the power we have is exactly the same as last year.’
As a result of Newey’s comment, Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul has spoken out publically against his comments. When asked by French publication Auto Hebdo about Newey’s comments, he replied with the following:-
‘Yes, it’s difficult to have a partner who lies. Adrian is a charming man and an engineer without parallel, but he’s spent his life criticising engine partners. He’s too old to change his ways.’
Despite the tension between the two parties at the moment, Abiteboul further on in his interview once again called on both parties to work together. He added the following:-
‘We need to work together to understand our issues, both within the power unit and the chassis. Our figures have shown that the lap time deficit between Red Bull and Mercedes in Melbourne was equally split between driveability issues, engine performance and chassis performance. It’s therefore the overall package that needs some help and we have been working with the team to move forward.
‘We’ve been particularly aggressive in development and we should see the results a lot more clearly in Malaysia, particularly since we have had the opportunity to refine the PU using the data from Australia. Work is still ongoing but even now we are in a completely different place to where we finished Melbourne.’
Like many fans of the sport, I feel that this is a public battle of words between Red Bull and Renault that appears to be carrying on like a couple of bickering kids in a schoolyard and getting progressively worse as the days go on and that they need to resolve the issues between them as quickly as possible before the situation gets completely out of hand.
I can understand why Red Bull feel the way that they do especially after all the promises that Renault made to them during the course of the 2014 season that appear to have not been met and both parties appear to be slipping backwards rather than forwards. Let me first say that as a racing team, your sole aim is to win race and championships with the best equipment you can provide your drivers with.
We know that Red Bull and Renault can win races and championships. Over four years, we saw Red Bull and Renault with former driver Sebastian Vettel winning four consecutive Drivers and Constructor’s Championships and we know that both parties have the personnel, the expertise and the resources needed to be successful.
With Horner’s claims of a engine equalisation needed to help Mercedes rivals catch up to them is non-sense. At the end of the day, Red Bull and Renault were successful for four years and we credited them at the time for producing the best power unit and car and they deserved their success without a shadow of a doubt.
To me, Horner is not happy with how his team and Renault are not performing and rightly so; even if their junior team Toro Rosso appear to be performing better than them at the moment. But to ask for an equalisation rule because they aren’t winning like they used to is childish and he needs to accept the fact that Mercedes are doing the best job and have produced the best power unit on the grid. The sooner Horner and Red Bull accept this fact; the better.
But at the moment, they need in my opinion to work closely together to resolve their issues with the power unit and their performance on track to get back to that position we know both parties can get to.
I will now flip the coin. Renault are stating that they are making progress and you could argue that they appear at the moment to be lacking compared to the Toro Rosso team. Toro Rosso had a reasonable testing period over the winter and enjoyed success in Melbourne when Carlos Sainz Jr scored points at his debut even though Max Verstappen retired from the race.
With both Red Bull and Toro Rosso undergoing different directions with regards to the designs of their cars as you would expect. Under Newey, Red Bull have always pushed their design philosophy to the limit with their packaging and their aerodynamics that has lead to issues with their reliability. Compared to Toro Rosso, they appear to design a car that allows more scope and is able as a result to achieve higher speeds on the circuit but cannot match Red Bull through the corners which has always been their strength.
So you could state that the different design philosophies adopted by both teams could play an important impact on how the Renault power unit performs on the circuit and at the moment, Toro Rosso appear to have a handle on reliability compared to Red Bull and this is another area that Red Bull have simply got to investigate and get a handle on as soon as possible.
With Renault publically stating that there are issues that needed to be addressed with Red Bull and are not shying away from this fact; you could argue that Renault at least are not in denial like Red Bull are at the moment and want to resolve the issues where they should be resolved which is behind the scenes rather than a public show of comments that will not help either side to move forward and try to beat their rivals.
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So I pose the question we are all thinking; are Red Bull and Renault heading for a divorce? With speculation increasing that Renault could be making a full return to Formula One; they could purchase Red Bull’s junior team to do so. if that is the case, the question will be what will Red Bull do next?
With Red Bull’s owners over the past two months issuing idle threats in my opinion to quit the sport will not help either party. I can understand everyone’s frustrations and concerns, but saying claims like that is completely unfounded and will not help the situation to move forward.
The spotlight at the moment is still firmly on rising costs in the sport and with Red Bull stating that they could quit the sport as they are not “getting the returns that they want” could be a sign of the frustrations with Renault at present but also that they simply do not like the fact that they aren’t winning anymore.
And my thoughts on that is; Red Bull have simply got to accept the fact that they are not winning anymore for whatever reason it may be and they should be working behind the scenes at their factory and in partnership with Renault to find out what the problems are; find viable solutions and develop the car as much as they can during the long season ahead.
Today, Horner has stated that the equalisation engine rule that he has been so out-spoken about is now “not right for F1” and is unlikely to become a reality. Why the sudden change of heart you ask?
Horner now realises that the situation is very frustrating and the fact that he believes that Renault needs more investment to match what Mercedes have put into the V6 power units is a valdid point indeed; but it still doesn’t allow Horner the right to throw his dummy out of the pram so to speak in the manner that he has and he should apologise to Renault and the sport for his earlier comments.
If Red Bull feel that they have given Renault enough chances and feel that they will not be able to meet their objectives; then the time might be right for them to consider another engine manufacturer who may fit their needs and objectives on the track better. Of course it is not going to be easy for either party; but they have everything at their disposal to get back to where they once was and have the potential to do so once again; even if it will be a long hard road ahead of them.
But overall, it is clear that Red Bull and Renault are not as competitive as they would like to be and this public display of words isn’t doing them any favours. Their relationship with each other has now been affected by this breakdown and they have only a few options to resolve the issue.
The only options I feel that Red Bull and Renault have at the moment are that they need to stop feuding with each other in the media, work closely together and work on the issues they need to to resolve and try and close the gap down to Mercedes which will take a lot of hard work. Or the only other option is to work this season closely to close the gap down to Mercedes and Red Bull look at finding another engine manufacturer as soon as possible and leave Renault.
I would say that Red Bull need to stop throwing their toys out of the pram, accept that they aren’t competitive as Mercedes, stop throwing out ridiculous comments in order to attack Renault, Mercedes and also the sport at their failure (yes there’s) alongside Renault’s of not having the tools needed to be competitive in the sport currently.
But to me; Red Bull and Renault need each other, just like flowerpots and dirt. Both parties have shown in the past that if everything comes together; they can deliver and be at the front of the grid competitively winning races and championships. They just need in my opinion to get back to that by working together; not against each other.