The Renault RS27 V8 engine yesterday powered Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel to second position in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The reigning world champion finished 2.1secs behind winner Jenson Button and two seconds ahead of third-placed Lewis Hamilton. Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber finished in fourth position, his highest finish in his home Grand Prix, to give the Red Bull-Renault package a total of 30 points.
Williams F1 Team had a very competitive first race weekend with the RS27. Pastor Maldonado started from a superb eighth position and raced in the top ten until the very final lap. The Venezuelan was sitting in sixth position but a spin while hunting down Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari put him into the barriers just a couple of corners from the chequered flag. Bruno Senna was involved in a first lap incident that dropped him down the field, but he rejoined the track to gain valuable race mileage for the new chassis-engine package. Unfortunately, his race came to a premature end on lap 53 when damage sustained in an incident with Felipe Massa proved too serious.
Lotus F1 Team, also powered by the Renault RS27, enjoyed a strong overall weekend performance, with Romain Grosjean putting the E20 into third position on the grid. The Frenchman’s race was curtailed just two laps into the race when he was pushed wide into the gravel trap. The impact broke his front right hand suspension and he was forced to retire on the spot. Kimi Raikkonen raced from 17th on the grid to seventh at the flag fall, giving the team a valuable six points.
Caterham F1 Team showed a decent race pace, with Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov running in the midfield. However Vitaly retired on lap 36 with an issue with his steering wheel, while a suspected track rod failure for Heikki on lap 41 led the team to make a preventative stop to avoid further damage.
In total Renault engines scored 36 points from the Australian Grand Prix.
Rémi Taffin, head of track operations Australia is a hard track engine-wise as we need to deliver responsiveness out of the slow and medium speed corners for good acceleration down the straights. This makes fuel consumption very high, so careful engine management is needed.
At such, getting a good result is difficult, so three cars in the points is not such a bad start to the season. However what’s more encouraging is the respective pace and performance we’ve shown across our partners. Sebastian had a good race to second and Mark to fourth, and although it’s not the result we would have liked, it’s a solid start to the year and a good platform to build on.
Lotus F1 Team got some good points today with Kimi. Across the weekend the partnership has worked well, with a strong starting position for Romain and ultimately an excellent race result from Kimi considering his grid slot.
The Williams-Renault package has worked extremely well here, both in qualifying and in race trim. There’s still a long way to go in the season but there is promise. Pastor was having a strong race and looked set to score some serious points, but it just didn’t work out this time. Bruno was also unfortunate in that the debris picked up in the incident was causing the car to become very hot. Since this engine has to be re-used in Malaysia it was the right decision to avoid any engine damage.
Caterham continues to move to the midfield and it was disappointing not to be able to finish with at least one car. Heikki had a KERS issue very early on in the race that we are looking at now. It meant he was down on power and couldn’t capitalise on this, but the team has made progress on last year and that can only be positive.
Malaysia comes around quickly now and it puts a very different set of stresses on the engine, with high heat and humidity making it difficult to get the correct settings. Despite the little time between here and the next race, thanks a strong support network back in the dynos at Viry-Châtillon we feel prepared and ready to build on this strong start to the season.