Improving reliability has been a bigger challenge for Renault ahead of the 2018 season than chasing performance, according to chief technical officer Bob Bell.
The works team suffered 12 retirements during 2017, even failing to start the British Grand Prix with one car as Jolyon Palmer retired on the formation lap at his home race. As a power unit supplier Renault also struggled, with Red Bull suffering the more high-profile retirements. At the Mexican Grand Prix, four of the six Renault-powered cars failed to finish, but Max Verstappen took a dominant victory in a display of the fine lane between performance and reliability.
With the number of power unit components that can be used during the season reducing even further this year, Bell says improving the car’s overall robustness has been a major area of focus ahead of the start of testing on Monday.
“We need a strong reliability record,” Bell said. “That’s something we need to focus on, and we have worked hard on it over the winter. We need the car as reliable as we can make it. That’s a huge challenge, even more so than performance development, and it’s the toughest task we face.
“To improve reliability, we have to accept nothing less than perfection. Anything that ends up on the car needs to be designed and built to the highest standard; checked and rechecked as fit for purpose. All the issues which blighted us last year need to be eradicated by a fresh approach. It’s not something however that you can flick on like a switch, you need well established processes in place.
“[The targets for testing are] laps and mileage. We want a trouble-free winter test program so we can validate the performance of the car and move forward. To do this we need a reliable car and that’s one of the key goals for the Renault R.S.18.”
And Bell says the ongoing development of Renault’s team headquarters at Enstone will help with both performance and reliability gains.
“There are many areas where we have increased capability. We have a new state-of-the-art CFD supercomputer and our wind tunnel received a sizable update last year. The new gearbox dyno will be online before the start of the season. These three elements give us enormous capability.
“The entire organization is growing; there are more people to increase the rate of development. Enstone has moved on a long, long way since the Renault acquisition and is perfectly following a trajectory that stretches out for several years.”