Caterham’s links with French manufacturer Renault was key to Charles Pic’s Marussia switch.
That is the claim of Olivier Panis, the former grand prix winner who is now deeply involved with the management of countryman Pic’s F1 career.
Some raised their eyebrows when Pic, 22, agreed to switch from Marussia to Caterham – both similarly-matched backmarker teams – for the 2013 season.
“We were very pleased with the collaboration with Marussia,” Panis insisted to the Russian website f1news.ru.
“But for the future we wanted to have a serious partner, and when a company like Renault wants to work with you – we hope for many years – it is impossible to say no,” added the former BAR and Toyota driver. “So this was the main reason.”
Meanwhile, Panis said Pic is happy to be paired with Giedo van der Garde this year, after the highly experienced and rated Heikki Kovalainen was ousted.
“Last year Charles learned a lot from Timo (Glock), so now I think that factor is not so important. Personally, I don’t mind. An experienced teammate is fine, but we are happy with Giedo. He also deserves a chance to show what he can do,” said Panis.
Renault suspects equipment failure caused Sebastian Vettel to be pushed to the back of the grid in Abu Dhabi.
Actually, Red Bull pointed the finger of blame at its French engine supplier, revealing that Renault engineers asked for the German to be stopped at the side of the track after he qualified third last Saturday. Then, when FIA scrutineers could not find the mandatory litre of fuel in the RB8’s tank for sampling, team boss Christian Horner insisted it is Renault’s decision to crunch the numbers for qualifying.
However, Renault’s top F1 engineer Remi Taffin suspects the French marque is actually not to blame.
“We need further investigation,” he is quoted by the Spanish daily AS. “We have checked the numbers, we have looked at what we did with the ‘robot’ and each number says there should have been enough (fuel). Along with the supplier, Red Bull is now checking (the fuel equipment/robot).
“We have checked everything on our side and we have not seen any problems,” added Taffin.
Caterham and its F1 engine supplier Renault have joined forces to produce road-going sports cars.
At the announcement attended by Caterham team boss Tony Fernandes and Renault chairman Carlos Ghosn in Paris, it was announced that the collaboration will produce “distinctive” cars from the Renault-owned Alpine factory in Dieppe, Normandy.
“The Caterham Group will own (a) 50pc stake in the Automobiles Alpine Renault company, currently 100pc held by Renault,” a media statement said. “I have not felt as excited about a new venture since I launched AirAsia in 2001,” said Malaysian entrepreneur Fernandes.
He added at a press conference: “If you look at Formula One, there’s only Ferrari and McLaren, which are extremely expensive. We’ll produce a car that many more people can afford with F1 technology.”
F1 legend Alain Prost could be the first to sample the sport’s new V6 power.
In his first F1 test since McLaren in 1996, the quadruple world champion drove a modern Red Bull at the Renault World Series event at Paul Ricard last weekend. Already contracted to the team’s French V8 engine supplier Renault as an ambassador, the 57-year-old could now be first in line to test the new 1.6 litre turbo V6 for 2014.
“It was really helpful to take the wheel of a modern formula one car,” the Frenchman is quoted by the French-language F1i. “And maybe I’ll have another opportunity with the new engine in the next two months. It would be a good experience,” added Prost.
“I am interested in these new engines coming to Formula One. I will work very hard with Renault on this side, it’s our new goal.”
Renault has defended pushing the limits of the F1 rules together with Red Bull.
Although the French marque also supplies identical V8 engines to Lotus, Williams and Caterham, Red Bull is regarded as Renault’s ‘works’ team. And Remi Taffin, Renault’s head of track operations, confirmed that the engine supplier was involved in the ‘engine maps’ controversy that caused the FIA to close a rules loophole in the days between Hockenheim and Hungary. Taffin defended the push to squeeze every thousandth out of the tight F1 rules.
He told Britain’s Times newspaper that, combined with the ultra-competitive nature of the sport in 2012, “you have to take the last bit of anything”.
“The engine design is frozen so the only piece we have left, we work on,” he said. “Back in Viry (Renault), Maranello (Ferrari), Brixworth (Mercedes), 300 people are not sitting on their desks doing nothing. Within the rules we work to have the best,” he added.
Interestingly, McLaren-Mercedes’ Jenson Button also appeared to justify Red Bull and Renault’s squeezing of the regulations, insisting the reigning champions are doing it well in every area of the car.
“We are so limited in terms of the regulations,” he said. “It gets more strict every year so you are always going to find people who are pushing the limits, pushing the boundaries. Then it is down to the FIA to decide if we are within the limits or not.
“It is not just traction where that Red Bull is strong. You cannot see a specific area where that car is stronger and the regulations say they are pushing the boundaries. They are doing a good job,” said the McLaren driver. “They won’t be slow suddenly.”
Renault has reverted to an older specification of its alternator for the use of customers Red Bull, Lotus, Williams and Caterham this weekend at Silverstone.
The decision follows the French supplier’s struggles to get to the bottom of the problems that caused Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean to retire last time out at Valencia. A similar issue was also reportedly linked to a problem suffered by Vitaly Petrov at Monaco.
“This (problem) is a great puzzle,” Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport reports. “Not even Renault knows exactly what went wrong.”
Remi Taffin, Renault’s track boss, confirmed that factory tests after Valencia showed “signs” of the problem recurring, but no definitive “conclusions”. He confirmed that 2011-specification alternators have therefore been supplied to Renault’s customers for the British grand prix.
“We are confident that it will not happen again, even though at the moment we cannot identify the causes of the problems 100 per cent.”
Taffin added that Renault has also made tweaks to the engine maps.
“In our opinion, the countermeasures are sufficient,” he said.
Valencia flagged a major headache for F1 engine supplier Renault.
Not only did Lotus’ Romain Grosjean break down with a failed alternator, so too did Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel. Initially, it appeared the failures were coincidental, but Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport now reports a common link. And, reportedly, Renault now suspects that a problem suffered by Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov in Monte Carlo was also similar.
The unit is reportedly manufactured in cooperation between Renault and Magneti Marelli.
“We don’t know what has broken, but we believe it’s the same source,” said engine boss Rob White.
He also doubts the initial diagnosis that the alternators overheated, in light of the possibility that Petrov’s Monaco failure was the same.
Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez agrees: “I heard it was the heat, but we have had races that were just as warm, and you would have to wonder why Kimi or Mark Webber weren’t affected too.”
Renault works very closely with Red Bull, the French marque’s premier partner.
“We know now that it’s a problem area,” said world champion Vettel, “so we need to work to resolve it as soon as possible.”
Renault team principal Flavio Briatore has again spoken out about the diffuser controversy that he believes is causing his team’s lack of performance this season. The Italian told Autosport he was conscious of all three “diffuser gang” teams’ superior speed, and that everybody else was suffering.
“Like everybody else, excluding three teams, everybody is having a tough time,” Briatore said.
“Malaysia was tough as well, especially with the weather, and our downforce is very poor. And this is very clear.
“But we do not give up, absolutely. We have the hearing [of the FIA’s Court of Appeal] on April 14 and we need to see what happens as well,” he maintained.
In a vicious dig at Williams, Briatore said that the team’s diffuser entirely explained their drivers’ competitiveness.
“This weekend it was so clear what happened. It is not normal. In this moment, Kazuki Nakajima is a fantastic driver, but these people did not make such a big improvement from last year…It is very clear there is a lot of downforce and a lot of ground effect.”
Briatore faces more difficulties up ahead if his car’s performance fails to improve. Star driver Fernando Alonso, although performing brilliantly so far this season, will most probably leave if Renault do not become competitive soon. Meanwhile, Nelson Piquet’s errant performances have raised concerns in the paddock about his ability to remain at the pinnacle of motorsport.
Fernando Alonso P1
“This is a fantastic result my first podium of the season; my first victory and I’m very happy, although I think it will take several days for me to realise what we have achieved.
Wining a Grand Prix here just seemed to be impossible because we missed our chance yesterday in qualifying, but we were very fortunate today and it’s a superb result for the team. We chose a very aggressive strategy and we had a bit of luck, but we had the pace and the car was fantastic throughout the weekend.”
Nelson Piquet DNF
“From the start of the race things were complicated and I had a lot of graining and the situation got worse and worse. The team asked me to push, which I tried to do and finally I lost the rear of my car. I hit the wall heavily but I’m ok. I am disappointed with my race but obviously very happy for the team this evening.”
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director ING Renault F1 Team
“This is an amazing victory for Renault and for Fernando. Since Friday we knew that the car was very competitive and we were very disappointed at the end of qualifying. Today the car was extremely quick, stronger than the Ferrari and McLaren, and although we had some luck when the safety car came out, we deserved this victory. It’s a very important result for Renault after two difficult seasons and helps us prepare for 2009 in the best way possible.”
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering
“I think the luck we had in the early part of the race was nearly a cancellation of the bad luck we had yesterday. The car has proven itself and so has Fernando. The whole result is a tribute to the team and this wonderful circuit is a tribute to Singapore!”