Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Sochi Autodrom, 2018

Verstappen’s engine altitude claim is wrong – Abiteboul

2018 Russian Grand Prix

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Renault Bull managing director Cyril Abiteboul rejected Max Verstappen’s claim the team replaced its new C-spec engine because it performs less well at high altitude, and told the driver to “focus on his car”.

Verstappen claimed yesterday Red Bull had reverted from the new power unit specification to the older B-spec because the C-spec would not perform as well on the upcoming high-altitudew tracks in Mexico and Brazil. Abiteboul dismissed that claim during today’s FIA press conference.

“I think that any engine performs not as good in a high altitude,” he said. “I guess the power increase we have seen would have been equal in a track like Mexico. So no I don’t agree with those comments and in general I think Max should focus on the car.”

Both Red Bull drivers will start from the back of the grid this weekend having reintroduced the older-specification engine. Abiteboul said the change of units had been planned in advance with the team to address drive-ability concerns which arose at the previous race.

“We had a drive-ability issue in Singapore in FP1 and into the weekend, and to a far less extent in qualifying. But I think that we have a very demanding user in the person of Max. Not very quiet, also.

“But I think the team has done a great job in order to provide Max what was needed in order to have a good weekend in Singapore, very clear.”

The C-spec as we call it is a good step,” Abiteboul added. “I think it’s a step that is a clear step in power that can also be for a certain number of limitations and that was part of the plan to introduce at a later stage a B-spec. It’s a bit unusual in terms of pattern but it’s a plan we agreed specifically on the request of Red Bull.

Abiteboul acknowledged the change of engines was also needed to give Red Bull the best chance of reaching the end of the season without further grid penalties.

“We do have durability concerns and therefore it was clear the engine introduced for Max would not have been able to do all the races so it was decided obviously to go to a different spec. But again that’s going back to the plan I was mentioning before with Red Bull engineering department and not driving department.”

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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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69 comments on “Verstappen’s engine altitude claim is wrong – Abiteboul”

  1. So much love in the air …
    Only two more months to go before their divorce finally comes into effect.

    1. Hehe, yeah the diplomacy game is gone now. I’m hoping for more juicy comments before they part ways.

      1. Wow .. Verstappen always has an interview on friday before the race on the dutch sport program F1 Cafe and he totally destroyed Abiteboul when he was confronted with Abiteboul’s remarks .. i personally hope the english press don’t pick this up otherwise the relationship between Verstappen and Renault is damaged beyond repair .. i personally like his direct straight and honest response but it is typical dutch and maybe not wise for an international audience who mis character him as arrogant which he is not!

    2. @nase So much love in the thin air you mean?

  2. With so much acidity coming from both sides it is hard to understand who is at fault here.

    1. I think its far to say that Cyril knows more about the engines than Max.

      1. You can’t run any kind of business with that attitude. The user/customer is always right.

        1. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
          28th September 2018, 15:20

          @mayrton – Not when the customer doesn’t have any suitable alternatives. Look at every ISP/Telecom here in the States.

        2. @mayrton
          No. The purpose of that slogan to ensure that the employees remain committed and dedicated towards customer satisfaction. Not to be taken in the literal sense. Customer has the right the question the credibility of the product, it is also the obligation of the seller to educate the customer and quell his doubts/claims. If you think the customer is always right and heed to all his words, you can never satisfy even one !!!

          All engines suffer at higher altitudes. RBR went back to the B-spec because it was a request from Christian and co. Cyril has clarified the same.
          If you are not happy with a product you buy, you make a complaint/approach the maker. Not defame them in public. People are watching anyway. They would know.

      2. True, the Renault guys understand their own engine better, but even if their product is not the best, it’s likely they will defend it regardless. So it is still difficult to assess what’s really happening

        1. Yeah, seriously. Anyone can make a sub-par product and claim the customer just doesn’t understand what they are talking about.

      3. correct @webtel, and RBR decided to go back to the slower B-spec just to allow Max to make such a claim :P

      4. I would not be surpised Max actually knows more about engines than Abiteboul does.
        Abiteboul is a manager, he’s not the one tweaking the screws on an engine while Verstappen (dad and son) actually build and tuned their own engines in karts. sure a kart is no F1 engine, but my guess is Verstappen does know a bit more about the technique

        1. Abitboul is an engineer, the Verstappens aren’t.

  3. So according to Abiteboul it’s Max’s engine attitude not altitude that is the issue.

  4. “We had a drive-ability issue in Singapore in FP1 and into the weekend, and to a far less extent in qualifying. But I think that we have a very demanding user in the person of Max.”
    That hiccup that killed his second run in Q3? Where he was over 0.2 s faster over the first 2 sectors than his first attempt, and another 0.1 s gain in the last sector would have awarded his first ever F1 pole?
    THAT kind of lesser extent?

    6 to go, and counting hard.

    1. Better start taking antidepressants now because it’s going to be worse with Honda.

      1. Better take them yourself, Honda is not going to fail this time. Their Spec C does work.

        1. Their spec C have not run on a RB car yet, and certainly have not seen Max commenting on it either… Also Alonso experience would have made them pretty immune to those kind of comments as well… Max cant beat Alonso in historic comments…

    2. Was Max pedalling ?

  5. “I guess the power increase we have seen would have been equal in a track like Mexico. So no I don’t agree with those comments and in general I think Max should focus on the car.

    This quote sums up what’s wrong with Renault/Abiteboul… You guess? Oh that’s right, you’re not using the C spec in your own car. Max should focus on his car? Well he is because the main weakness is that bloody engine. IMO his, Max’, analysis makes sense and it’s a shame Abiteboul feels the need to make this kind off remarks… Deliver a good engine or accept the criticism!

    1. To be fair to Renault, we dont really know how close they are to the top suppliers.
      Remember how McLaren had the best chasis (even occasionally confirmed by some data here and there) and the engine held them back so unbearably? Whatever happened to that.

      We dont know what downforce Red Bull runs.
      Whatever they tell us, or whatever angle we see on their rear wing isnt “data”

      1. Red Bull aren’t the only Renault-powered team on the grid, unlike McLaren’s situation last year.

        The fact that they are the best Renault-powered team by a mile speaks to the caliber of their car and drivers.

      2. To be fair to RedBull Renault’s customers are bigger, more resourceful and have people in their staff that are considered to be the best in the business if you compare them to Ferrari’s and Mercedes’ supplied teams. The fact that neither Renault, McLaren or RedBull can challenge for wins consistently is the ultimate indication that the PU is sub-par. To add insult to injury both Renault, the manufacturing team, and McLaren have find themselves fighting with no other than STR-Honda

        It is fun and all complaining about RBR, but Renault is yet to make a significant step in performance compared to Ferrari and Mercedes. For the looks of it they run the risk of falling behind Honda as well

        1. Exactly. It’s not even the fact that Renault is subpar, but more so the arrogance they show towards Redbull which annoys me to no extend. I think the way Honda has handled the McLaren nagging, which in hindsight wasn’t even fully fair, is the way Renault should go about it. Maybe if they would, they’d fair better.

        2. Neither McLaren, Renault or Red Bull fight for the championship, but if you take out the top three teams, Renault cars seem to have the edge. I’m not saying this is necessarily indicative, but it suggests at least that is not as simple as saying the PU is the problem.

        3. What on earth does Danny Ric see in this team? Really hope he has some information that we don’t. It would be sad to see him get “Alonso’d” out of the sport with Renault.

          1. I honestly believe it has less to do with Renault as a team and more with money and getting away from Verstappen.

            At the start of the season he was all kinds of hot, but why? Because Verstappen messed up. Now Verstappen is (seemingly) maturing, learning from his mistakes and keeping it clean, Ricciardo has no answer. Another season with a matured Verstappen would be the end of Ricciardo.

            The way I see it, taking Honda uncertainty in consideration, going to Renault is nothing more than damage control: More money and a change to get his market value up against a less talented driver (that’s most likely how he sees it). If he’s slower than Hulk, it’s fine. He’s new to the team, “it’ll be better next year”. If he’s faster, his market value will go up. Anyway he’s better off because Redbull-Honda will not win next year (again, what he thinks probably). It’s a win-win.

          2. I think Daniel’s decision was the best option on the grid for next year. Really the place I’d have like to see him at is Mercedes, but neither they nor Ferrari wanted him next year. So that left staying at Red Bull or going to Renault. I see shifting to Renault as a good decision because it seems to me their engine is still ahead of Honda’s.
            There’s also the added bonus that if there’s another crash with Max while trying to overtake him, then he’ll have a legal team full committed in presenting his viewpoint to the Stewards.

          3. @drycrust Ferrari did state that they wanted Danny, did negotiate with him but didn’t sign him. They stated at the time that they couldn’t justify his asking price. So he did have other options, though I’m sure Mercedes wasn’t one of them.

          4. @antznz Thanks for the update. I wasn’t aware he’d been offered a contract by Ferrari, although “couldn’t justify his asking price” is a bit vague. I must admit I would have been really disappointed if Ricciardo had been given a Number 2 seat at Ferrari, he’s so much better than that. I’m still a bit disappointed he didn’t get a seat at Mercedes, but I’m glad Bottas still has a seat.

      3. McLaren never had the best chassis. It was good in some areas and best of the rest at some points, but never the best.

        This kind of false information is what McLaren and their fans get stick for.

  6. Regardless of the whole back and forth, it is beyond embarassing for an engine manufacturer to lay the blame for a bad product at the hands of the driver. No driver in F1 asks too much of the engine. It’s an absurd claim. It’s also a terrible indictment of Renault.

    1. At least they still have parts to supply this year, at least for now

    2. If you go and look at any guarantee you’ll find one of the exclusions is misuse of the product. I suspect Abiteboul’s claim Max doesn’t drive the way the Renault engineers recommend he should is true, and one obvious consequence of that is unreliability. Of course, another consequence is he usually finishes ahead of their cars, so one can argue they have a vested interest in him driving the way they recommend. However, the benefit of operating the engine within Renault’s recommended performance window is better reliability.
      I don’t see Renault making a big fuss about this because when Max does have an engine failure through misuse then they get more points, Red Bull have to buy more components, and there’s the potential he starts the next race behind Renault.
      Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe Max has the skill to finish ahead of Renault’s cars even if he does operate the engine within their recommended performance window. Only Red Bull know the truth on that. Anyway, this will be the last season of Renault having to worry about Max and his driving style, next year Red Bull will be arguing with Honda’s engineers about Max’s driving.

    3. I see your point, but when Renault get criticized time and again by Verstappen like in Bahrain, and the data show it has no substance, of course you publicly clarify the situation.

  7. They were saying on Sky during the race in Singapore that the problems Red Bull were having with Max’s engine over that weekend had been caused by Red Bull closing up some cooling duct’s & causing the engine to overheat on Friday.

    Certainly Red Bull have had far more issues with engines than the other 2 Renault supplied teams so maybe there is something in claims that Red Bull are causing some of the problems.

    1. Oh really, more issues? So that’s why Renault already used 49 components versus the 40/37 from RBR and McLaren.
      Where RBR even choose to change engines just to bring another one in the pool.
      Renaults engine issues have nothing to do with packaging and such: it’s simply a crap engine!

      1. a lot of the new components renault factory team used were due to newer specs rather than issues/failures.

        red bull have suffered more issues/failures than the other 2 renault powered teams.

        and regardless of that it’s clear the issues max had at singapore was caused by the team overheating the engine, it was widely reported at singapore & i don’t believe red bull denied it either.

        red bull are just spoilt, they want all the credit & no responsibility for failures. where was all this talk about renault when they were winning championships? no it was all vettel & team, hardly ever a mention of the work renault were putting in to help them win those championships with blown diffusers etc..

        1. @RogerA
          Newer specs you say? Like the c-spec? Which they didn’t use btw.
          Renault suffered less issues because the knew what would happen if they kept using the components, and changed their engine components before they would brake down, unlike RBR who don’t wanna suffer grid penalties because of their crappy engine and rather let it break down in public than start at the back of the grid. They are atleast trying to win races, unlike Renault, who are apparently happy enough being lapped only once per race by MV and DR.
          And there is no evidence whatsoever, despite the Sky reporters rebirthing the “packaging story”, that RBR’s engine issues were caused by overheating. Renault already made a public statement about the issues and how they are working hard to solve it.
          It’s called F1, drivers and teams are supposed to push as hard as possible and engines are supposed to be made for that purpose, and not for Renault cruising around in 7th place, over a sec per lap slower than RBR.

    2. It’s the only team that deliver some results. An engine should at least be on par. Renault is obviously not.

  8. Every engineer knows that high performance race engines have troubles at higher altitudes. Less power, overheating etc. An engine allready on his limit will destroy itself if not tuned down. So it is safer to use the engine with lower specs and tune it up for high altitude. Turbine engines in aircraft have the same issues, they use waterinjection to overcome the power problem at lower cq higher altitudes.

  9. If I must compare both Stories I will take Max his version, his Dutch directness tells us just what he heared from his engineers. (Actually as a engineer myself this is a logical explainment then what Renault told us.) While Renault is holding a damage control story.

    1. @macleod, on the other hand, there are examples of Max making claims about the engines that were later proven to be false, such that his “Dutch directness” might not be quite as direct or as reliable as you suggest. For example, his claim that his crash is Bahrain was caused by an unexpected power surge from the engine was completely debunked, not just by Renault but also by his own team (Horner, whilst trying to cite mitigating factors, confirmed that the engine was working fine and the crash was entirely down to driver error – in that case, the throttle trace confirming it was because Max was applying full throttle).

      1. I never heard that any of Max claims were false there were miscommunications about translations but never that his claims were wrong. Even Bahrain there was something wrong which was the mapping and Max could used the mapping wrong while full throttle and in his mind the mapping has half that. And that shouldn’t be possible from the driverside or Max was rewriting the mapping while driving he car.

        I think Max was expecting something else then what the mapping was doing.

      2. @anon That might be one claim by Max that was more about him covering up a mistake, but I don’t think you will find many more examples. Overall the proof has been right in front of us for several years now…the Renault Pu is not up to snuff, and they have admitted it, and it has caused a wholesale change in Pu suppliers for RBR. Renault have been lucky to have RBR pushing them and their unit as they have, for otherwise even Renault themselves as a works team can’t come close.

      3. Yep, sometimes things happen without a reasonable explanation. Data shows nothing but the driver feels different. What I can remember is that Ves said it felt like a sudden 30 HP extra. Data is evaluated through a bunch of computers, the driver is just a man. Data proved him wrong. But sometimes data is just data. I saw a man shooting at an 10 inch balloon at 1000 yards, with a 9mm handgun. Hitting it with his second shot. Any data will show you that this is impossible. Now it is only the man who knows how he did it.
        Let’s hope for a great race on Sunday! A lots of action and everybody safe!

      4. the Situation in Bahrain was literally called no driver error by Horner on TV

        I thought there even is an item about it on racefans

      5. Horner later corrected himself. max not at fault in Bahrain.

  10. Parts of the quotes from Cyril are almost unintelligible. I know he’s a native Frenchman, but that could have done with some editing in English.

  11. The comments from both Max and Abiteboul show that a works team is probably the only way to go as they sleep in the same bed and spend no time blaming each-other.

    RBR is better off next year with Honda as they become basically a works team. And so will Renault as they will not have to spend valuable time responding to claims made by drivers not belonging to their own family.

    1. Agreed.

      Apart from the performance side Red Bull will be better off without Renault, it has been toxic for too long. So toxic that people are willing to believe a driver over the actual maker of the engine who knows everything about it, who is only responding to a another toxic claim.

      1. @BMF66

        Hmmm, you know it, I know it, every driver on the grid knows it, every pundit and every F1 fan in the world knows it:
        The hybrid Renault engine is a piece of garbage, with way to many issues and far too little performance.
        And you know: I’m pretty sure everyone, except Cyril, in the Renault family knows it too.
        Nothing MV, or any other RBR employee, says about the engine is toxic; it’s simple stating the facts.

      2. Look Max didn’t say renault was crap (we did) this time he was just explaining why they want to us the B spec of that engine. Cyril is a PR man which is almost as bad as a certain person in command of a big western country.
        C-spec would explode when you take it up to high altitudes. (figurally) not enough cooling ect. ect.

  12. Max is a rider with a clear opinion, they are no longer used to that in the F1. Most of them are speaking dolls that preach for their own parish.

  13. I’m always game for a little Max-bashing, but this is just blatant mud slinging made even more ridiculous by the fact that I can’t understand a word that comes out of Cyril Abitiboul’s mouth.

  14. The whole reason to change the engine was that the driveability issues and the forced neutrals are expected to get worse at altitude. Thus the Renault new spec would definitely not be better.

  15. What do they keep talking about altitude for? These aren’t planes. Elevation isn’t it?

    1. We are speaking of altitude because it considers the density of the air at higher elevation.

  16. As long as the Renault engine is not on par with the Mercedes and Ferrari engine Verstappen is in his right to complain.

    May be Abiteboul should focus on creating a better engine in stead of slinging mud.

  17. I think Verstappens comments stem from his frustration after Singapore. But his disappointment may lead him to have unrealistic expectations for next year as do several people on this forum :).
    If he is of the opinion that 2019 is going be all champagne and chequered flags and he will be carried to the podium on the shoulders of Hachigo and Mateschitz as some of his more enthusiastic supporters think he deserves, well all I can say to that is LOL.

    1. I highly doubt that anybody at RBR is expecting to beat Mercs and Ferraris next year, their first season with Honda. I would not at all be surprised if they are thinking that just retaining their placing of third in the Constructors would be the best they can hope for next year. Can’t say I recall many fans around here expecting much more either.

  18. In 2019 TR is going to fight RB for the WCC their Honda engines will be so much better than Renault. (kidding but hopeful)

  19. José Lopes da Silva
    28th September 2018, 22:57

    Verstappen seems to be going on the way of aligning himself with the strategy of his boss. He shouldn’t get too strong about it. Unless he’s being sincere, of course.

  20. Verstappen’s stroppiness and apparent desire to point fingers is matched on the grid only by Alonso’s. lots of similarities between those two.

    1. Except for the maximising results…

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