Will Gray

Tech Talk: The significance of Red Bull’s new Renault deal

Will Gray

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Red Bull Racing announced a five-year extension to their Renault engine deal at Monza - and the details of their new agreement could prove ominous for their rivals.

Renault is the third-longest serving F1 engine manufacturer and started its most recent period in the sport in 2001. At that time, it supplied the Benetton team in preparation to re-name it Renault the following year, starting what would be an eight-year period as a full works team.

Since the controversy of race manipulation in Singapore in 2009, the French manufacturer has been retracting from the team role, ultimately selling up entirely to Genii Capital at the end of 2010 and moving back to their traditionally-held position as an engine supplier.

They currently supply three teams on the grid - Red Bull, Lotus Renault GP and Team Lotus - the same number supplied by each of their rivals Mercedes, Ferrari and Cosworth. Next year, however, they will add a fourth, with Williams, and have not ruled out a fifth team as they try to turn F1 from an investment to a profit maker.

With the former works Renault team dropping in and out of the lead pack this year, the French manufacturers' allegiances have waned and Red Bull has been quick to seize the opportunity to connect up strongly with the only manufacturer currently not running a works team.

The new deal represents a committed technical collaboration, rather than just a bolt-in-the-back engine deal, and gives Red Bull a similar relationship with Renault to that once enjoyed by McLaren with Mercedes or Williams with BMW.

The current frozen engine regulations mean little will change in the next two years - but with the sport currently preparing for a wholesale shift in engine format in 2014, what better time to get a little closer?

The partnership will see Red Bull and Renault work together on the new 1.6 litre V6 turbo, with engineers from the team embedded within Renault to influence the design of the unit and ensure it is developed with a keen eye on its integration within their car.

A long-term engine deal is important to help the team design their car around the unit they have - but the timing of this new agreement will give Adrian Newey's design team an open door to actually influence the design of the engine itself. And that could offer a huge benefit.

The structural function of an engine is important within an F1 car as it is a stressed member of the chassis and therefore contributes to the overall rigidity of the car. But it is also important to keep the weight and centre of gravity low and minimise the shape and size of the engine for good car aerodynamics, with all areas adding up to create an overall benefit for the package as a whole.

Newey is well known for his demands on packaging, and he will no doubt push the boundaries to ensure the new Renault unit is as compact and light as possible. He and his teams are also typically innovative, so this new agreement gives them the opportunity to point Renault in the direction of some radical packaging and performance concepts for 2014.

This way of working has already had proof of concept with the on-throttle blown diffuser - a design which required both engine and chassis sides to work in full collaboration to maximise the benefits - and that could be a sign of things to come.

Renault's COO Carlos Tavares has said that the engine "isn't simply a power unit or a means of producing torque but can have characteristics that can allow for formidable aerodynamic packaging" and that the engine team is now briefed to not only make it the "best engine in the field" but also to "allow the chassis team to optimise the chassis aerodynamics."

That chassis team is the Red Bull chassis team - and the biggest benefit of all is they can keep it all a secret.

Renault has stated that the collaboration will "of course be to the advantage of our other team partners, who will indirectly benefit from the joint expertise" but the question is how soon into the design process for the 2014 cars will those other partners be let into the secrets of the design?

Looking ahead to 2014, only Ferrari and Mercedes will have a similar collaborative effort (McLaren are no longer as in bed with Mercedes as they once were) so it was vital for Red Bull to get this deal to keep them at the front of the sport.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has already referred to his team as the "factory team of Renault Sport" and if Newey's acknowledged talents do transfer to engine design too, then they could be unstoppable for some years to come.

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