Top three F1 engines are “all pretty close”

2018 F1 season

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McLaren believes its switch to Renault has given it access to a power unit which is on a par with the best in the sport.

Group executive officer Zak Brown said his team are “very happy” with the partnership so far. “I know there’s a big debate on what’s the first, second and third best engine; in reality I think they’re all pretty close.”

“We’re excited and feel that they really wanted to do business with McLaren and we feel we will have total parity with Red Bull and the works team so we’re comfortable they’re going to give us everything they’ve got.”

Red Bull has previously criticised Renault’s power units, blaming them for its deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari. However Brown says McLaren has confidence in its new partner.

“When we made the decision to go with Renault it was long-term in nature,” he said. “Obviously the relationship with Red Bull for whatever reason, we all see it, has not been healthy. So it’s good that we have a very healthy relationship with Renault.”

“You look at the last time they had big success with another team, Williams, they were absolutely dominant. We’re set up for long-term success together.”

Reliability problems dogged Renaults efforts to get on terms with their rivals last year but Brown says progress is being made in this area.

“As far as power, reliability they’re happy with where they’re at and what’s been happening on the dyno,” he said. “And specifically the reliability, they think they’re on top of.”

“I think last year they had the power and it’s when they turned it up that reliability issues kicked in. They had their issues in Mexico but they also dominated the race. So we’re feeling good.”

Red Bull has consistently been the most competitive Renault-powered team but McLaren are ready to be judged against them with the same hardware. “If we’re nine-tenths off Red Bull that wouldn’t look good,” Brown admitted. “We don’t want to hide.”

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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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33 comments on “Top three F1 engines are “all pretty close””

  1. “I know there’s a big debate on what’s the first, second and third best engine”

    I think it’s widely accepted that Mercedes is best, Ferrari is second and Renault is third, by some distance. Never seen any debate on the matter…

    That said, it’d be great if the three are close and reliable this year, leading to great racing at the front between 3-4 teams.

    1. Remember that it is McLaren, all is relative. Being at 700, you don’t see much difference between 990, 995 or 1000…

    2. Widely accepted ≠ factually accurate. While no one seriously doubts that the Mercedes PU continues to be an asset, the peak power output of the Ferrari PU seems to have reached the same level, so that other factors, such as fuel economy and reliability, are far more important.
      The fact that the Renault PU comes third is largely uncontroversial. But the gap tends to be massively overestimated (mostly due to Red Bull’s mediatic influence and incessant negativity). Last year, the FIA published an analysis according to which the power deficit of the Renault PU accounts for no more than 3 tenths per lap on a circuit like Barcelona.
      Renault’s perceived lack of power is largely a myth constructed by Red Bull, as it perfectly fits their narrative of the all-conquering chassis that can only be held back by factors outside of Red Bull’s control, such as the PU.
      In reality, Red Bull were the third-fastest team mostly because they built the third-best car. With the 10-15 extra bhp they could get from fitting a Ferrari or Mercedes PU, they’d still finish 3rd, just a bit closer to the front, and with both drivers ahead of Räikkönen.

      1. Hmmm, I think we saw with our own eyes quite a bit of untimely unreliability at RBR, so for me it is hard to believe that the only difference for RBR has been a lack of 10-15 hp and 3 tenths. I think that if they could crank the Pu up and still have it hold together for a race then perhaps these numbers make sense, but I think they could not crank it to being only 10-15 Hp down and expect to have reliability too, so they didn’t. I would not be surprised if RBR had to put it in finish-the-race mode too often and at a cost of more than just 10 or 15 hp.

      2. Nase, that’s your opinion mate. I think Newey is still top dog and also that Renault are still behind the curve although they will eventually catch right up. As a whole, Renault have brought more to F1 engineering than either Ferrari or Mercedes (first with 1.5 litre turbo, first with desmodromic pneumatic valve train, first with V10 to name but a few). I look forward to their eventual parity but we won’t know anything until the lights go out.

        1. @baron, mind you, Newey isn’t entirely infallible and has sometimes produced cars which haven’t been a great success. I recall that McNish mentioned that Red Bull’s 2015 car, at least in the earlier part of the season, had balance problems in higher speed corners, with the drivers complaining that the car tended to understeer on the entry into corners and had a slightly sluggish response.

          Equally, back in 2017 Red Bull admitted that, until about June, they had been suffering from correlation issues with their wind tunnel. If the data that comes in cannot be relied upon, no designer can be entirely confident that they are producing an effective design – it is part of the reason why Red Bull’s car featured comparatively simple bodywork in the opening races in 2017 (some speculated it was a design choice, but Horner hinted that it came about because the team couldn’t rely sufficiently on their wind tunnel data to really push the boundaries of their design early in the season).

          I would say that nase does have a valid point that, whilst there are those who like to claim Mercedes has a major power advantage, the evidence from those involved behind the scenes suggests that Mercedes’s advantages really come from other areas and that the peak power advantage really isn’t that big. For example, I am aware of one individual who claims to be connected with Honda’s engine development team who suggested that one key advantage Mercedes had came from the fuel efficiency of their engine – claiming that they used 10-15kg less fuel than their rivals over a race distance – rather than necessarily just peak power (Honda, unsurprisingly, being the worst for fuel consumption, with Ferrari being a bit worse than Renault in that respect).

      3. 3 tenths at Barcelona is a lot, can you imagine the difference in a power dependent circuit?

        The Ferrari and Renault might reach a level of performance equal to the Mercedes, but it costs them fuel consumption and reliability, so they cannot operate always at that level. Which makes de Merc PU the best, Ferrari second and Renault third

  2. Well it doesn’t really matter what he says does it. The same words were said at the start of the Honda era also.

    If the results don’t come they’ll be looking for another partner in a few more years regardless. If they end up behind Renault for whatever reason, I’m sure they’ll be pointing at the engine as not being on par just as they did with Mercedes, despite being behind Williams also at the time.

    I wouldn’t be in any rush to partner with McLaren… Renault are likely just doing to weaken Red Bulls bargaining position as their sole customer.

  3. Another Mclaren news to further praise Renault and bury Honda even more…

    What Honda worked on the Toro Rosso, does that mean Mclaren chassis aero design held back honda?

    1. I don’t understand the second sentence at all…

      1. @ho3n3r
        “What IF (the) Honda (PU) works (well) in the Toro Rosso? Wouldn’t that mean that McLaren’s chassis design held Honda back (and not the other way around)?””

    2. What Honda worked on the Toro Rosso, does that mean Mclaren chassis aero design held back honda?

      Man.. Even miracles have limits. I don’t think it’s debatable whether Honda got McLaren in 9th in the WCC.. it’s a cold, hard fact. Toro Rosso will most likely finish last this season, so I hope people will finally shut their lid on this ridiculous ‘Mclaren’s chassis and not Honda ruined them’

    3. You don’t need a good car design to go fast down the straight. Manor proved that with the Mercedes engine in their last year, often being fastest through the speed trap.

      There is absolutely no way that the Honda just looked bad because of the McLaren chassis and aerodynamics.

    4. Alonso and Vandoorne were competitive when power didn’t matter that much.
      Both were sitting ducks on power tracks.
      Honda sucks.
      Case closed.

  4. You look at the last time they had big success with another team, Williams, they were absolutely dominant.

    I seem to remember Renault doing ok with Redbull not so long ago too.

    1. Well yeah @keithedin, Zak mentions how the relationship between RB and Renault “has not been healthy” and THEN goes on to say something about the last time BEFORE the red Bull one where the team has a long standing engine partnership.

  5. Recently it seems that the McLaren PR department has been sacked and is being run by Zak himself.
    I’m starting to get a little bored with all the constant bullish chatter coming from McLaren, I just hope that after what feels like an age, they can back up their big talk with results.

  6. more PR and Marketing from Mclaren´s corporate people. Can we just ignore the obvious propaganda in favour of real news stories in future?

    If we are to take this seriously then Mclaren should win everything this year due to them having the best chassis and an engine equal to everyone else. That is what they have been saying right?

    Anything less is going to underline that they have been either delusional or lying for the past 3 years.

    I sincerely would like to see a competitive Alonso this year but after 3 years of nonsense coming from Mclarens corporate mouthpiece i´m just tired of them.

    The one thing providing some hope is that Alonso opted to stay with them after finding out they were getting Renault engines. THat he had nowhere else to go aside, he should have a better feel for how good that chassis actually is and he seems to have hedged his bets on it being good this year too.

    SO maybe, just maybe…

    1. Yeah but really what else is he supposed to say? And for Keith to ignore it just because it comes across as the usual pr speak, it’s still what the man has said, and is therefore newsworthy. At least he didn’t say “we’re doomed” nor “we’ll win the Championship this year” lol.

  7. Really… Has the site been bought by Autoexpress?

  8. Zack! I’m having a déjà-vu Zack!

  9. On Wall Street, equity research analysts are mocked and derided for reporting what “management said” as opposed to listening to what management says, then doing their own analysis and drawing their own conclusions.

  10. digitalrurouni
    15th February 2018, 13:37

    I really hope McLaren is going to be on an upwards trend. I would love for Alonso and Stoffel to be contending for the championship. The more the merrier which would also mean more chances for the Red Bull aces to be in the mix as well! Come on Renault!

    Also if you have not seen the McLaren documentary on Amazon Prime I highly recommend it – Grand Prix Driver. Kudos to McLaren to give us that much of an insider’s view. Loved every second of the documentary!!

  11. McLaren are just flitrting with Renault. Their press briefings will be in French soon. Nous t’aimons beaucoup.

  12. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    15th February 2018, 19:59

    Top three F1 engines are “all pretty close”

    I find the way this sounds a little amusing. As it looks like it will mean the top 3 engines are Renault Mercedes and Ferrari. In which case, 90% of the grid are all using one of the top engines. If that happens to be the case, then if they are not all fairly equally compatible this year, they can only blame their chassis or drivers. But I don’t know if I should take a title that seriously. That was just my first thoughts.

    I just wouldn’t name them as the top 3 engines as there are only 4 and the one that isn’t considered a top engine is just being used by 1 team.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      15th February 2018, 22:14

      This comment clearly hasn’t worked right. But from when I have done a quote before, I have put the quotation marks from the button before and after what the quote was. I did this exact thing and it appears to have made what I typed appear as the quote which wasn’t the case previously.

  13. Don’t worry, Fernando will soon let us know if the Renault is lacking.

    1. GP2 engine! GP2!

  14. You’d think McLaren would have learned from the Honda debacle to just wait and see, not to keep talking.

    1. I think they’re confident that no matter how bad the power unit may be, it’s still a big step up from Honda.

  15. I tend to agree. Mexico was proof the engine is close to Merc.
    The majority seem to think Merc and Ferrari will rule again – I think Red Bull has a good chance to crash the party
    and McLaren may be the spoiler that takes enough points away from Merc and/or Ferrari to ruin their run at the WDC.
    Bring it on already!

  16. Merc 1st, Ferrari 2nd, Renault 3rd. No debate whatsoever.
    Is there Anyone who believes mcl will come close to RB. Its all talk again from mcl

    1. @Nick
      Does no debate mean you are 100% sure of the WCC finishing order? Change happens in F1 and this will be the year IMO.
      It will be different this year – Red Bull will be stronger and although I don’t expect McLaren to be as strong as Red Bull, they won’t be far off and I believe Alonso will wreak havoc with the added power and reliability and his knack for quick starts. Max will be a huge factor – his aggressiveness cannot be underestimated.
      Most would agree with your assessment – I expect a major reshuffling. At least I hope.

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