Flavio Briatore admits Renault have fallen behind on engine development

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Renault managing director Flavio Briatore with engineering director Pat Symonds

The F1 team bosses have been meeting at Ferrari’s headquarters in Maranello to come up with a set of proposals for F1’s rules for 2011 and beyond. Speaking before the meeting, Renault’s Flavio Briatore gave a frank assessment of his team’s problems:

The problem is that us, Renault, have stuck to the letter of the current regulations on frozen engines, and we’ve been buggered: others didn’t do that and are far ahead, while we suffer. It’s not fair.

Engine development in Formula 1 is outlawed because of the ‘engine freeze’ – in theory. However F1 teams are allowed to replace parts to fix faults and improve reliability. Early in the season rumours suggested Ferrari had exploited this rule to make certain performance-enhancing tweaks on their engines, and that other manufacturers had since followed suit.

This is what Briatore seems to be hinting at.

Engine development is extremely costly and the freeze was supposed to help alleviate that cost. Renault has often drawn attention to how it is one of the least profligate F1 outfits although they are still among the top spenders.

Renault are clearly struggling in 2008 and are sixth in the constructors’ championship at the moment.

It’s not just Renault who use the engines – Red Bull do too. Since Red Bull’s Ferrari-powered sister team Toro Rosso got its hands on the STR3 chassis – which is an RB4 in all but name and a few details – it’s been worrying the Red Bull ‘A Team’.

So why didn’t Renault follow the other teams by developing their engines. It’s doubtful the idea hadn’t occurred to them. And it would be rather na?�?�ve to suggest they passed up the chance of improving their engines out of a noble dedication to the cause of cutting costs.

Perhaps it’s a sign the team’s budget is being squeezed?

Renault F1 team information

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “Flavio Briatore admits Renault have fallen behind on engine development”

  1. Some guys (Hamilton fans methinks) commented that Alonso didn’t bring the development he claimed he could… well he brought at least 7 tenths at the beginning of the season. I guess this explains the rest of the season.

  2. Are Renault really as naive as this? Surely Bernie would have mentioned to his best mate Flavio that the other teams were bending the rules slightly?
    Do Red Bull share engine engineers with Renault as well use the same engines? Would it be possible for them to gain an advantage?

  3. A couple of weeks ago (probably Silverstone practice), Peter Windsor and Steve Matchett were talking about how the teams were skirting the engine freeze rules. Apparently there is still tuning that can be done with the intake plenum and exhausts. I believe Windsor said that Mercedes was tuning these specifically for each race (and might have cited it for McLaren’s recent upswing). As usual, Windsor covering something that nobody else talks about.

  4. To be honest , I don’t see the Renault engine being inferior to either Mercedes or Ferrari. I think their problem lies more in the gearbox/diff , mainly getting drive out of a corner seems to be inferior to the above two , and then the handling of the car which would point to suspension and aero rather than engine .

  5. Could be the budget cut, could also be that the developments they had in the pipeline were subject to another “spy saga” ;-) so they abandoned them and then there was no time or money.

  6. Robert Mckay
    30th July 2008, 11:29

    “To be honest , I don’t see the Renault engine being inferior to either Mercedes or Ferrari. I think their problem lies more in the gearbox/diff , mainly getting drive out of a corner seems to be inferior to the above two , and then the handling of the car which would point to suspension and aero rather than engine .”


    Homologation will mean that the difference in engines between Mercedes/Ferrari and Renault will be significantly less than the difference in the chassis/aero. Renault’s problems are much larger than minor development of the engine. Whether or not they are behind on that the money they have would be much better spent on developing the chassis and aero packages.

    But Flav’s hardly likely to point out that the team are genuinely behind when he can blame it all on “cheating others”, is he? :-D

  7. The Renault looks awful on starts, even on light fuel. I’ve heard in the past that their engines were tuned for top end power and severely lacked torque (which is interesting because they used to be great off the line in 05/06, maybe a batter launch control system?). Maybe the rev limiter limits there engines ability to truly shine and now its too late to tune for current regs?

    Either way, they need to get rid of the rev limiter, it hurts overtaking.

  8. “…Perhaps it’s a sign the team’s budget is being squeezed? …”


    Do you have any information about Renault 2008 budget? I´m very curious to understand the impact of Alonso´s salary in this budget. There are in formations in Spanish media that Alonso´s salary is around $ 51.3 million per season.

    Considering that Mr. “6 tenths” doesn’t bring (comparatively to 2007 in terms of development), what they expected, could be interesting to think a team with more money but with the average Fisichela developing the car and a confident Heikky driving to the points in the championship.

    When we see that Alonso is just using the team as a “stop and go” to jump to Ferrari, I think “Uncle Fla” isn´t so smart as we think…

  9. Interesting thinking Becken that Alonso has hindered Renault this year because of his salary, meaning they can’t spend as much on R&D. It would also explain the poor form of Piquet who might be getting the inferior equipment and treatment.

    We all saw how wound up Alonso got when a rookie beat him last year so it would be no surprise for him to make sure it didn’t happen again this year, Piquet gets second rate equipment while all the (little) money left gets spent helping out Alonso. Just a possibility of what might be unfolding.

    Will be interesting to see how Alonso reacts in Hungary following Piquet’s podium. My prediction is a lot of overdriving and frustrated mistakes from Alonso while Piquet might get it together with some new found confidence.

    Love inter team rivalries….

  10. Renault’s problems are not just with keeping pace with McLaren and Ferrari, but BMW Sauber and Red Bull. These two teams have come on by leeps and bounds, both seeming to have plenty of resources and good driver lineups.
    Just two short years ago, Renault were a top team, now they are fighting more in the midfield. If, and I stress, if Alonso’s salary is having an effect, maybe it would be wise of Briatore to change his driver lineup for next year!
    However, people forget that Fernando Alonso still makes money too. The sponsors still want him, and he is one of the more sought after drivers, ensuring that Renault remain in the spotlight.
    I have a niggling suspicion that Briatore knows that he has already lost Alonso to BMW Sauber, compounding Renault’s current situation yet further.

  11. Renault had a great package in 2005 – 2006. Unfortunately most of the pilars were they fund their reputation are not longuer there like Michelin and realibility (they were not the fastest but very reliable, nowdays whith less revs we see less problems). Put a huge aerodinamic mistake in the equation (in 2007) and you can understand how they ended at the end of the pack. With less resources that the top teams and one year lost over the others they have a huge problem and only with (inmense) luck they could finish in the podium. I honestly think that without Alonso that car would strugle to be in Q3.

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