Engine supplier Renault has urged the teams it supplies not to expect too much too soon from the new 2017 power unit.
The French manufacturer are believed to have come up with an all new engine concept ahead of the 2017 season, but warned that their main focus at the start of the year will be on reliability rather than full on performance.
The new design will be introduced in phases, with the first model being installed for Round 1 of the 2017 Formula 1 season in Australia, and it will not be until the mark two version is released, which is likely to be around the time of the Spanish Grand Prix, that the engine’s full potential will be unearthed.
Speaking to motorsport.com recently about their plans, Renault Sport Formula 1 Team Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul, explained the strategy and added that some compromises would have to be made in order to allow the bigger picture to be realised.
“I prefer to be conservative in the expectation for the first initial running of the engine at the start of the season.
“But definitely it is an engine that is offering the potential to cope with an awful lot of development. We have lots of ideas of concepts in the pipelines – most of them, as far as I am aware, have not been seen at the track.
“Clearly I am not going to disclose anything, but we are super excited by the level of innovation that this new platform offers. So it is a choice that we are not making for the start of the season but we are definitely making for the long term.”
Having not enjoyed the smoothest of comebacks to F1 as a constructor in 2016, introducing a whole new design at this stage of their progression could be risky for the French squad, but Abiteboul feels this is the only option, if they wish to meet their targets for being a front runner in F1 once again.
“Frankly we have had long discussions about that because at the point in time that everything is changing on the rest of the car, we could have taken a more conservative approach in trying to freeze what we have and focus on the chassis.
“But we have not gone for that. We have gone for a very aggressive option – which is that there is no time. If we want to be where we would like to be for 2018 or 2020, which is the next phase, when we want to target the top teams, we cannot afford to delay anything. So we need to accept to take risk.
“We will be focusing on reliability with that new concept of engine – which will be a new concept I can confirm that.
“It means that it may not be a big jump in terms of performance, simply for the reason that we want to make sure to introduce this concept that it is reliable and that will be the perfect platform to develop the performance for the next three to four years.”
Customer team Red Bull Racing are hopeful of a big step up in performance from the Renault engine in 2017, and feel they will be able to fight for the title, if the French manufacturer have managed to close the gap on the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team power unit.
Abiteboul however is playing his cards close to his chest, and although he feels Renault will challenge Mercedes for number one engine status in the future, he does not know if that feat will be possible just yet.
“I don’t know how Red Bull is capable of projecting themselves next year. When I look how fast or how quickly the car is changing in our wind tunnel, I am sure it is the same for all teams. So it is very difficult to think what will be the pecking order.
“It is a very exciting time for everybody in F1. Clearly this season if they had been within 3 percent that for sure maybe would have been better, but I am not sure that would have been enough to fight for the championship. We know where they want to be.
“We are committed to having the best engine in the grid. Not just within 1 percent but to have the best. And as I said, we think we have a number of idea of technological concepts that can allow us to be better than Mercedes in the future.”