Renault Sport Formula One Team is evaluating proposals to use four power units in the 2018 Formula 1 season, rather than sticking to the three that are permitted.
Regulations have been made stricter for the coming season, with each driver allowed to use three power units, penalty free, for the twenty-one races. This number is down from four units in the 2017 season, with many in the paddock unsure about whether this target can be met.
Auto Motor und Sport has reported that Renault may recommend to its customers, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and the McLaren F1 Team to use an extra unit, but incur resultant grid penalties as a result.
“The balance between reliability and development for more power is incredibly hard to find,” explained Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul, who has previously described the move as a “headache.”
During pre-season testing in Barcelona, the Renault power units, across all three teams were tuned down as to protect reliability. For the early part of the new season, the French manufacturer will focus on reliability over outright performance, with a big upgrade due mid-season.
Renault customers open to fourth power unit
Strategically taking a fourth power unit and the associated grid penalties is something that Red Bull adviser, Dr Helmut Marko is open to.
“If you strategically plan the penalties, you will not lose so much,” the Austrian said. “We started from the back in Monza last year and finished fourth” (with Daniel Ricciardo).
Red Bull designer Adrian Newey echoed Marko’s thoughts by saying that “if you’re a racer, you’d plan with four engines. The benefits are greater than the disadvantages.”
However, despite Renault being open to the idea, fellow power unit manufacturers Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains and Ferrari have dismissed following suit.
Both Mercedes and Ferrari are opposed to relaxing the rules and allowing extra penalty free units to be used, with Mercedes’ power unit designer Andy Cowell believing that taking a fourth unit, could ultimately ‘cost you the title.’
Renault’s other customer, McLaren has not yet made its intentions clear. After a troubled pre-season for team, boss Eric Boullier said that “the question of three or four engines is definitely up for debate” and the team will do “what is best for us.”