The power unit upgrade that was brought in a race early by Renault, is the likely reason Daniel Ricciardo was able to secure pole position in Monaco, according to Red Bull Racing Team Boss Christian Horner.
The French manufacturer’s original plan was to bring the new specification engine in at the Canadian Grand Prix, a further two weeks down the line, but successful trialling of the B-spec power unit during the in-season test session at Barcelona last month, saw them bring forward its inclusion to Monte-Carlo.
The timing could not have been better for the Red Bull Racing squad who were already making in-roads into Scuderia Ferrari’s performance, by taking victory at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix. The upgrade on the streets of Monte-Carlo, a track perfectly suited to the RB12, allowed them to steal the edge on current championship leaders Mercedes AMG PETRONAS during qualifying. Speaking to F1i.com Horner commended Renault’s vision.
“I think Renault has done a good job and, obviously, the gains that have come in the power unit this weekend have been approximately 0.2 seconds, so that will translate to a bit more when we get to circuits like Montreal and Azerbaijan, so it’s been a positive step and, without it, we wouldn’t have achieved the pole position.
“It was always going to be clear, even before Max [Verstappen] joined the team, that, if it was going to be available [Ricciardo would receive it] – and we pushed Renault really hard from the beginning of the year to get it for this race, so hats off to them for achieving it because it was scheduled for Montreal…”
It is clear that Red Bull are happy with the progress Renault are now making, after their very public falling out back in 2015, when the Milton Keynes based squad felt that the Renault engine performance was not acceptable. A year on and they are best friends again, already having sealed a deal to be powered by the French manufacturer through to 2018, with sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso also following suit and making the switch back to Renault engines, from the 2015 specification Ferrari power unit they have been using this year.
It is believed the performance gains from the upgraded engine will be more apparent at the upcoming rounds of Canada and Azerbaijan, with up to 0.5 seconds a lap achievable, which will be a major boost for both teams. With engines available for each driver of the Renault Sport F1 and Red Bull Racing teams goign forward, it will be interesting to see if that invokes some inter-team rivalry, as well as giving the Milton Keynes based squad the step up they need to challenge Mercedes on a more regular basis.