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Rob White Q&A: Renault still playing catch-up, despite progress 24 Feb 2014

Rob White (GBR) Renault Sport.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 20 April 2012 The Renault Sport Energy F1-2014 Power Unit. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Lotus E22.
Formula One Testing, Day Four, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 22 February 2014 (L to R): Rob White (GBR) Renault Sport, Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing, Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer, Rob Marshall (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Designer and Paul Monaghan (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Engineer with the new Red Bull Racing RB10.
Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, Day One, Tuesday, 28 January 2014 The Renault Sport Energy F1-2014 Power Unit.

After their well-publicized problems in Jerez, last week’s second pre-season test in Bahrain saw Renault - power unit suppliers to Red Bull, Lotus, Toro Rosso and Caterham - make some much needed progress. But despite taking several steps forward, Rob White, Renault Sport F1’s deputy managing director (technical), admits they remain several weeks behind where they would like to be, with a lot of work to be done between now and Melbourne…

Q: What were the key steps taken between Jerez and Bahrain?
Rob White:
We made a number of specification changes to the Energy Store (battery), involving modified hardware, requiring some gymnastics in engineering, procurement, assembly and logistics. We also introduced two levels of Power Unit (PU) control system software updates; the first being effectively what would have been a decent starting point for Jerez. It eliminated some bugs that allowed us to make mapping and calibration corrections, which subsequently allowed us to operate the cars in a more robust way to gather mileage. The second layer of software changes had more functionality to allow a greater authority to the control systems, giving better performance and driveability, and a larger degree of Power Unit systems integration. All the cars started on the first route and all cars migrated to the second solution as we gathered mileage.

Q: How has the test in Bahrain gone?
RW:
We have had some setbacks, but we have definitely made progress and have taken several steps forward. The changes have improved the PU behaviour in the car and we are have accumulated valuable mileage. There have been stoppages, on our side and on the chassis side as well, but we have ironed out some important faults and allowed the teams to gain crucial experience of the car as a whole. We have seen that minor incidents can cause downtime that is difficult or impossible to recover. In particular, we lost more time than anticipated on the final day. While we are not at the level of operation and performance we would want to be, we have a more solid basis to work from, and we are moving in the right direction.

Q: Would you say you are back on schedule?
RW:
We have made some good headway, in terms of PU performance and operation in the car, we are now in a situation we could have accepted mid-Jerez. We have solved some problems and revealed some others. We are not back on schedule but we are moving in the right direction - the running we have done is very valuable. The challenge is to improve the rate of progress, because the gap to where we wanted to be at this stage remains substantial. We are some weeks behind where we wanted to be, and we acknowledge it will take time to unlock the full performance of the PU. We are working hard to get there and we are determined to succeed. We remain confident in the PU and its subsystems, we are just not at the level of operation and performance we want to be. The immaturity of the PU combined with the time lost to incidents, means the chassis work to prepare for the season is also behind schedule. From this point on we must pursue and accelerate an upward curve.

Q: What is the plan in the short break between tests?
RW:
We run again in Bahrain at the end of (this) week. The homologation deadline is looming, the race engines for Melbourne are in the early stages of build. There is a huge amount of work in progress. The Viry team is working night and day to solve our problems. The collaboration with our teams is closer than ever. The rate of development is extremely rapid away from the track and that we can create and validate effective solutions very quickly shows the resolve and tenacity of all our team members. We now have a list of issues from this test we will address. There are of course priority calls to sort out the most important ones from the background noise, but we will come back stronger at the next test and continue to learn about the Power Unit and prepare for Melbourne.

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