Fernando Alonso has become the latest Renault-powered driver to attribute Toro Rosso’s performance edge at Valencia to the grunt of its engine, hinting that Renault and engine customers Red Bull Racing are being disadvantaged.
Both Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso’s qualified and finished in the top ten at Valencia with Sebastian Vettel putting in a sensational drive to finish sixth. Renault and engine customers Red Bull Racing in contrast had an abysmal weekend as all four cars qualified outside the top ten and failed to bring home a single point.
Both the Ferrari as well as Ferrari customers Toro Rosso had a significant advantage in the speed traps, and Fernando Alonso reckons the Ferrari V8 was powering STR ahead of its senior Red Bull Racing team.
“We must bear in mind that he (Vettel) uses a Ferrari engine and that is an advantage,” the Spaniard is quoted as saying by Diario AS.
“The Red Bull and Toro Rosso cars are identical, but one is fighting for the top positions and the other, with a Renault engine, could not get past the Q2,” he added.
Mark Webber was of the same view and claimed that the Toro Rosso cars were benefiting from an advantage of up to four tenths of a second around the new street circuit.
“We have struggled for grip all weekend, we know both Sebastian’s are driving well this weekend,” he said after dropping out of Q2 on Saturday.
“They have a stronger engine which is worth 4 tenths, the rest we can do a better job, we see where Renault are. Difficult day, new venues, not good pace and it’s getting frustrating.”
The fears expressed by the two Renault-powered drivers follow concerns that Renault have fallen behind as a result of the engine freeze.
Although engine development is outlawed under the freeze, teams are allowed to replace parts to fix faults and improve reliability. It has been suggested that big-budget teams such as Ferrari and McLaren have been able to exploit this rule to make performance-enhancing tweaks, while Renault have fallen behind in the arms race.
“The problem is that us, Renault, have stuck to the letter of the current regulations on frozen engines, and we’ve been buggered,” said Renault Team Principal Flavio Briatore earlier in the year.
“Others didn’t do that and are far ahead, while we suffer. It’s not fair.”