Following the final winter test session at Bahrain, Renault's Deputy Technical Director Rob White insists real progress has been made on the Renault powertrain. He does however admit that the preparations are not yet complete.
‘It is fair to say that once again we have made some real progress.’
How was the second Bahrain test from a Renault perspective?
The aim of the last test session before Australia was to recover some of the lost ground from the previous test sessions and to rehearse the Grand Prix. We wanted each of our four teams to be able to approach a normal race weekend without having to improvise any of the procedures or operations needed. We can’t escape the fact that we did not complete the entire programme with all the teams and that some Melbourne preparations are incomplete. On the up-side, we have done some of everything, with simulations of qualifying sessions, starts, race distances and long stints and it is fair to say that once again we have made some real progress.
We have cured or found workarounds for some of the problems we had previously identified. New problems revealed as we ran more have added to the unsolved items, and have disrupted running, which is disappointing for our teams.
Have there been any major issues this time round?
In terms of down-time, we see that minor incidents can veer off into major ones and cause significant downtime. This is an example of the immaturity of our PU; we do not have all of the fail-safe and limp-home modes we would consider normal in this stage. This contributes to the loss of track time when a small issue does occur. As we go forward we expect to be able to take these things in our stride rather than have a major failure as a result of minor problem.
When running, this immaturity makes itself known as shortcomings in torque delivery or ‘drivability’, which make it tricky for the drivers to find the performance limit of the car.
And what have been the key learnings over the testing period? We have started to converge on a configuration of car that is more like when we have run the engine back on the dynos in Viry. We’ve increased the level of performance at which the PU can be operated, and we’ve made strides in terms of how energy is managed round the circuit. Additionally we have made some headway on troubleshooting our control systems.
What is the plan now pre Melbourne? Between now and Melbourne we have a number of items to cover. We need to consolidate all of the lessons learned across all the teams. We need to review all the accumulated data and compare and contrast to get the best out of it so the starting point for all of the Renault-powered cars is as good as it can be. Second, we must progress further on the torque delivery of the PU felt by the drivers. This will include software and calibration work, with simulator and dyno and validation. Thirdly there is the logistical challenge of getting the race Power Units built and shipped to Australia. That process is well under way and will be finished next week.
Has the Renault Energy F1-2014 Power Unit undergone the necessary homologation process? Yes, the relevant documents and a reference Power Unit have been submitted to the FIA within the deadlines in the Sporting Rules.
What are your hopes for Melbourne? Melbourne will be an anxious weekend! Conducting a normal race weekend, in which both cars run well during each session for every team, would be a great relief. I hope we can support our teams and drivers to explore the performance of the car and allow the race to deliver its sporting verdict.