Champions' engine guru on new rules and Red Bull supply
The 2007 season will mark a significant change in working practice for Formula One teams engine departments. With the pending introduction of engine homologation rules, the teams will, for the first time in many years, not be designing a brand new engine for the coming season. Instead, all teams will run with versions of their 2006 engine, modified to meet the new 2007 rules.
For Renault, that will not be the only change. Next season they will be supplying engines to the Red Bull Racing cars as well as their own. As Renaults Viry-Chatillon engine plant celebrates its 30th anniversary, technical deputy managing director Rob White explains how Renaults 2007 preparations are progressing
Q: The team at Viry-Chatillon has won consecutive world titles with two very different engines. How big a source of pride is that?
Rob White: Every single person at Viry is extremely proud of what we have achieved over the past two seasons. To become the final champions of the V10 era, and the first of the V8 period, is a unique achievement. Some elements of our approach for 2006 were criticised, but the engine won its first race. That was a powerful statement. And by the end of the year, the RS26 had proved itself to be a top-line F1 engine in the only way that matters: by scoring more points than any other during the season. That reflected not only the hard work we had done at Viry, but also the constant improvements in communication and collaboration with our colleagues at Enstone.
Q: The focus is now firmly on 2007. How is the programme progressing?
RW: The programme for 2007 is significantly different to previous years. It will be year two of the V8 engine regulations but most importantly, we will not be designing a brand new engine.
Q: Is that a major change for you?
RW: Very much so. Since 2001, Viry has produced a significantly different engine each season. For 2007, though, the regulations impose the use of the unit we ran in China/Suzuka as the basis of our new engine, with a rev limit fixed at 19,000 rpm. Initially, our task is to re-optimise the RS26 to meet this new restriction. Subsequently, we are allowed to work on optimising the engine's installation in the chassis.
Q: What are the major milestones for this project?
RW: There are two. By 15 December, all the engine manufacturers must submit to the FIA a declaration of the modifications to their engine relative to the Suzuka 2006 version. Then, by 1 March 2007, they must supply the FIA with an example of the modified engine. We are working with these two key dates in mind.
Q: The team will also supply Red Bull with engines in 2007. What impact has that had?
RW: It is a positive move for Renault, and for the team at Viry. Firstly, it will reinforce Renault's presence in the sport in association with a high-profile competitor. Secondly, it allows us to compensate for some of the impact of the reduction in engine development activity brought about through the regulations. Obviously, the agreement has also had an impact on the structure of our trackside support operations, as we prepare to run four engines at every race and test rather than just two. Those changes are now being finalised, with a view to the beginning of our engine supply agreement in January 2007.
Q: Will supplying two teams be an extra burden for the team?
RW: No. The teams at Viry have extensive experience of supplying multiple teams, and it forms part of Renault's F1 tradition as well as our core skills. Our customer engines have won 80 Grands Prix in the past. Red Bull will use units to the same specification as the works team. We will seek to take advantage of that during our pre-season preparations, as we will have twice as much data from track testing than we would otherwise have had.
Q: Finally, Viry-Chatillon celebrates its 30th anniversary this week
RW: There is great pride in the heritage of Viry-Chatillon and its achievements over the past thirty years. This is the place that introduced the turbocharged engine to Formula One in 1977, took six consecutive constructors' titles from 1992 to 1997, and has become only the fourth driver-team combination in history to achieve the 'double double' of world championships. Looking back over the last 30 years, Renault has won eight constructors' world championships - second only to Ferrari. It is a formidable achievement that commands real respect, and a testament to the hard work and competitive spirit of all our personnel.