Bob Bell, the chief technical officer of the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team, believes the Renault power unit was a match to that of Ferrari in 2016, although they still fell short of Mercedes.
Red Bull Racing took two wins in 2016 with Renault power in Spain and Malaysia, with last season a marked improvement from 2015 where the engine was both unreliable and off the pace.
A new direction and a change of Renault’s internal structure saw the improvements translate on track in 2016, and Bell has revealed that the aim now is to continue that improvement to get on par with Mercedes, at least by 2018.
“It’s certainly behind Mercedes, there or thereabouts with Ferrari, maybe slightly off but not by much,” said Bell to Motorsport.com about where Renault are in relation to their rival engine providers. “Renault has closed the gap to Mercedes. You only have to look at Red Bull’s performance last year, they’ve been able to take the fight to Mercedes on many occasions.
“If nothing else that indicates not only a very good chassis but the engine has moved on a lot. We have to close that gap and we’ll make another step over winter.
“But whether that will see complete closure or not, you just can’t tell. There’s no way of knowing. We believe we can, given time. It might possibly not be this winter but certainly by the end of next year and into 2018, we ought to be right on it.”
Bell admits that the improvement from Renault between 2015 and 2016, after which the engine became the most reliable on the grid, was immense, and says that what was achieved was not easy to deliver.
“It is massively impressive what they’ve achieved, because they really set out with the mandate to make sure at the very least the engine was absolutely rock solid in terms of reliability, and they’ve achieved that,” added Bell.
“It was probably the most reliable engine on the grid last year and that’s a huge credit to them, but that hasn’t stopped them putting a lot of performance in the engine.
“It’s taken some big steps and the great thing is that they did deliver what they said they would in an engine upgrade, and that’s not always an easy thing to achieve.”