In a self-confessed ‘drastic’ move that will shape Daniel Ricciardo’s fortunes in Formula One, Renault have revealed they are in the process of developing a brand-new engine for the 2019 season.
The French manufacturer will start from scratch, rather than use this year’s ‘Spec-C’ version as a base, in their bid to close the gap on competition leaders Mercedes and Ferrari.
The move comes as Ricciardo winds down his time with Red Bull in preparation for his switch to the Renault team on a two-year contract.
The Spec-C engine has powered the Australian’s Red Bull in recent races and the driver had been encouraged by Renault’s progress.
“This being their latest step, having positives and actual gains from that, is positive,” he said last month.
“It’s encouraging for the next part of this year but also for my future. It’s a nice little positive.”
But the 29-year-old, who had already lowered his expectations for next year, now faces the prospect of further growing pains – though Renault will hope it’s a fast-track to success after failing to secure a podium finish since the works team returned in 2016.
Team boss Cyril Abiteboul said the decision was made because the Spec-C power unit is “not delivering more in terms of performance” and they did not want to be “held back by the structural limitations of the (current) engine”.
He said speed must be balanced with reliability in their desire to reach the next level.
“Given the ambition in terms of power improvement for next year, pretty much all of the engine will be new,” Abiteboul told Autosport.
“Not only on ERS (energy recovery system) side, because there is little power and little performance to extract there, but the rest of the ICE (internal combustion engine) will be new.
“That is why we need to be a little bit careful and we need to be extremely drastic and have lots of discipline on planning and milestones to make sure we are not putting ourselves in a difficult position at the start of the season.”
Abiteboul said Renault had made improvements in the MGU-K – a key component of the ERS – and turbocharger this season.
But he criticised the current rules surrounding engine penalties, which restrict teams from changing parts and remaining competitive on race day.
“That is what is silly with the current regulations,” the Frenchman said.
“Even if you have a better part you cannot afford to introduce it because of all the penalties and all the sporting consequences. That is crazy.
“You are spending money to improve your parts, you approve it on dyno (testing and measuring performance), it is available, built, there (at the track), and you cannot put it on the car. That is crazy. There is really something wrong here.”
The current rules surrounding the V6 turbo engines expire at the end of the 2020 season, when Ricciardo is set to hit the market again, with the sport’s key figures debating how many changes to make.
Abiteboul appears to expect few adjustments, confident that building a new engine for next year will pay off over the next two seasons and again when the new regulations arrive for 2021.
“In my opinion what is paying the most in F1 is stability, stability of the objective, vision, organisation, priorities,” he said.
“But at the same time, being brave enough to look at what is not good enough or what is not working.
“That is exactly what I have the responsibility of doing with the rest of the management team.
“One thing that strikes me is that we see absolutely no flattening to the engine development curve. That is amazing.”