Renault has enjoyed its best winter ever in terms of power unit development, according to engine technical director Remi Taffin.
The V6 hybrid era has been dominated by Mercedes so far, with 74 of the 100 races since 2014 won by Mercedes power units. Ferrari has picked up 14 victories in that time, with Renault achieving 12 courtesy of Red Bull. However, Taffin says 2019 should see further progress from the French manufacturer given the advances it has made over the off-season.
“I think this year is the right time [to achieve engine excellency] for two reasons,” Taffin said. “The first is stability and stability of the regulations. We know the regulations for the power unit have been extremely complex, they still are, so we know and we understand it. We had time to put the structure in place because as much as this stability is important, so is the stability of the organization.
“We’ve got the structure, we’ve got the people now — we knew we had some good people but it’s also good to see over the last one or two years that we have been very attractive. We have some new people in and now we have this organization and these people to make the structure result in the best engine.
“Eventually we can see the results of it, especially when we look at the winter we just went through. Even if it’s not really the winter because it’s months and years of work, but we’ve been producing an engine through the winter that we can actually say now has been the best winter for the last five years. So now we look forward to next week.”
While Renault struggled for reliability at times in 2018, Taffin says the confidence for this season stems from the way his team has been able to successfully follow a development plan.
“We obviously have worked a lot on the ERS — which is a big part of the power unit — but the other big part is the internal combustion engine that we’ve kept on working through. One thing that makes us sure about why we are delivering this year is also based on the fact that we basically had a road map. What is the road map? For us, it’s actually the technical ingredients we need to get the best out of our engine.
“For the last years, in 2018 we were introducing some new concepts and development that proved to be successful, but we did not stop there. We managed to take some of them further down the road into 2019. The result of that is obviously this best winter we’ve ever had, but also the fact that by basically developing that road map it just showed we know what we’re doing and now it’s a matter of execution.
“It’s fair to say we know where we’re going through; we’ll deliver a first stage into race one this year and we have the objective for this season to close the gap to the rest.”
Daniel Ricciardo joined Renault from Red Bull at the end of 2018 and says he’s encouraged by the progress he’s seen on the power unit front.
“Being pretty deep in the Renault family, I’ve seen numbers and I know they are not just saying it to please everyone,” Ricciardo said. “It has been a good winter. Racecars are racecars. You might put it on track and ask ‘why is it doing that?’
“I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket and say ‘this is going to be sick’ but so far what they have done over the winter, looking at the numbers they have done in previous years, it’s been a good one. No means they are saying it’s going to be better than a Mercedes or something but for what they have done, it’s been very positive. It’s nice to hear that.”
Aside from the factory team, Renault will only supply power units to McLaren this season following Red Bull’s switch to Honda.