Renault has held its hands up and admitted that the big gains which it expected to make at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix have not come about, meaning that the teams that it powers may again struggle in qualifying and the race.
So far this season, Renault’s power units have been down on power compared to those made by Mercedes and Ferrari. In winter testing, its teams – Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Caterham and Lotus – struggled immensely, and have since been trying to claw back the deficit.
Ahead of this weekend’s race, head of track operations Remi Taffin was confident that it would be “the first full opportunity to see where we are versus the competition”. However, when we spoke to Pastor Maldonado yesterday, he claimed that he was still losing as much as 10km/h heading along the straights.
“Today was a difficult day as predicted,” Taffin explained following practice on Friday. “We knew that the long straights would give us some headaches since the long periods of full throttle and emphasis on top speed do not play to the strengths of our power unit.
“We still have a gap to the Mercedes in front and we can see by the times that we are struggling for overall performance in this low downforce configuration.”
However, Taffin believes that Renault could make up some of the time to Mercedes through energy recovery and fuel saving, which will be crucial to succeeding at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Sunday.
“We have however been able to get a lot of information on fuel consumption,” he said. “The race may demand more than the 100kg permitted fuel limit so making the best use of the recovered energy will be important in the race. We think we’ve got a good handle on it and will look to maximize this area to reduce the gap to the cars in front on Sunday.”
Renault’s poor start has been one of the big stories of 2014 so far, and it has certainly been a headache for Red Bull. The defending world champions already look likely to lose the constructors’ crown to Mercedes, which will come as a bitter blow given that the RB10 car is certainly quick through the corners.
At Renault, the hope must be that the big step forwards comes when F1 returns to Europe in Austria at the end of the month.