14 March 2012 – The 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship restarts this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix, held at the 5.303km Albert Park circuit in Melbourne.
This year, Renault Sport F1 will supply its RS27 V8 engine to four teams; Red Bull Racing, which aims to successfully defend its consecutive world championship titles; Lotus F1 Team, Caterham F1 Team and Williams F1 Team, reviving the historic Williams-Renault partnership for the first time since 1997.
‘Last year was about re-establishing Renault as an engine supplier rather than team owner,’ comments Jean-François Caubet, managing director of Renault Sport F1, ‘This season is about consolidation. We showed that the Renault RS27 engine is amongst the best on track, but this year we want to stress that the service, driveability and flexibility we afford our partners is the strongest in the business.
‘Ultimately we want to give our partners responsive, reliable engines developed to their full potential within the given regulations to allow them to achieve their respective aims, whether championship titles, race wins or points.
‘In tandem, we need to extract marketing and commercial opportunities within Formula 1 that can be exploited within the Renault Group to increase brand power and ultimately sales figures. We aren’t just here to compete, we are here to extract real performance and marketing value from our involvement in Formula 1.’
Views from our partners
Christian Horner, team principal, Red Bull Racing This will be our sixth season working with Renault Sport F1. We have been very successful together so far, achieving 27 wins, 65 podiums, 38 pole positions and four World Championships. Renault Sport F1 is very straightforward to deal with, which is important in our fast moving sport. Since 2007 our partnership has continually developed and last year it advanced to a premium technical co-operation.
Our aim this year is to increase our results tally, while also continuing to build on the partnership for future years. V6 engines are due to be introduced in 2014 and, with our enhanced technical agreement in place, we will be working closely with Renault Sport F1 as they develop these units to optimise their inclusion in our chassis.
Eric Boullier, team principal, Lotus F1 Team We have enjoyed a long partnership with Renault which we are pleased to continue for 2012. Our E20 is a step forward in terms of design, fit and finish and the reliability we saw in pre-season testing is a testament to Renault’s engine department and the invaluable contribution they make. As a team, we have strong ambitions to move forwards and this can be seen by our investment in our CFD, wind tunnel, simulator facilities, and our driver line-up. Renault complements this ambition perfectly with their championship winning technology and expertise. We could not want for more from an engine partner.
Sir Frank Williams, team principal, Williams F1 Team We are delighted to be embarking on a new season in partnership with Renault. This is an important move for the team as we look to lay the foundations for a long and successful partnership with such a leading car manufacturer. Our previous relationship with Renault holds many great memories for us as a team, and for me personally, however we are very much looking to the future and what we can achieve from here on in. There is always a lot of work involved when changing engine partner, but our engineers have been working closely with Renault’s experienced technicians throughout the winter to ensure a seamless transition to the RS27 engine. We’ve had a productive period of testing, and we are now looking forward to getting the season underway in Australia.
Tony Fernandes, team principal, Caterham F1 Team 2012 is the second year of our partnership with Renault and the season when we are aiming to join the midfield fight and, if the opportunity arises, score our first point. We have invested in many areas of the team to put us in the position we find ourselves in our third season, and bringing Renault Sport F1 on board was one of the most important steps we made, early in the development of the team. Renault shares our vision, our passion and our determination to succeed. They know how to win and that mentality is key to the continuing growth of our team.
News from the track
Australian Grand Prix engine facts and figures
– With a combination of short straights, second and third gear chicanes, the 16 turn track requires medium to high downforce and good traction is essential. A driver needs the engine to be responsive on the throttle to maximise acceleration out of the slow corners and carry speed down the short straights. It will be interesting to see how the teams cope with the lack of exhaust blowing this year now the FIA have implemented tighter engine mapping regulations and mandated the geometrical envelope for the exhaust exit.
There is a quick section at the back of the circuit that also requires good top end speed. The circuit characteristic and resultant engine requirements will be similar to Valencia in this respect, with good driveability and responsiveness through the whole rev range.
The Albert Park circuit has the highest fuel consumption rate of the year due to the short, hard bursts of power between slow and medium speed corners. As a result, the starting fuel load is amongst the highest of the season.
The track is used as a public access road throughout the year, meaning the surface at the start of the weekend is low grip and littered with leaves and day to day rubbish. If any material is ingested into the sidepods it could have an adverse effect on the cooling systems. The highly abrasive track surface also causes high tyre wear, resulting in small marbles off the racing line. These can partially block the air filter, as well as increase the level of debris in the sidepods.
Melbourne’s geographical location between the sea and hills to the hinterland can cause several changes of weather throughout the day. The changeable climate can also throw up unusual race situations that can bring out the safety car. Under these circumstances it is important to manage the fuel consumption. In general there are two options; save fuel to make use of the richer, more powerful engine modes for the rest of the race, or during the latter stages burn as much as possible to avoid carrying around excess ballast for the final laps. From winter testing, rear tyre degradation appears to be less this year, which will make it easier to estimate the fuel consumption throughout the race.
The engineers’ view
Head of Renault Sport F1 track operations Rémi Taffin:
The gap between seasons this year has been shorter than ever, which has made for a very busy winter. As well as the usual programme of engine installation, dyno testing and ultimately track testing there have been a number of different challenges we have had to face.
One of the biggest has been putting together a team for our new partner, Williams. The process started straight after the announcement of the deal in July 2011, which was actually the perfect time to start working on engine-chassis installation as that’s when the fundamental principles of the next season’s car are laid out. In parallel, we also started discussing the trackside operations and how we would best service Williams within our given structure. As we started the process very early, it has been quite straightforward, which has been borne out in the high number of kilometres we’ve been able to cover over the winter testing period.
Alongside the challenge of building a new team, there have been several important clarifications to the regulations concerning engines. Although this has not made a fundamental difference to our operations at the track, it has required several changes of protocol and a re-evaluation of how we approach items such as engine maps and engine settings.
We do however feel that we are well prepared going into the season. It’s never easy to make predictions ahead of the first race, but we are happy with the amount of mileage with each team and are confident that we can maintain the driveability and responsiveness that was key in 2011.