Rob White, Renault's deputy managing director (engine), discusses engine development Q: Rob, Formula 1 enters an era of engine homologation in 2007. What has that changed for the development programme of this year's engine? The...
Rob White, Renault's deputy managing director (engine), discusses engine development
Q: Rob, Formula 1 enters an era of engine homologation in 2007. What has that changed for the development programme of this year's engine?
Rob White: The programme for 2007 has been very different to previous years. Since returning to Formula 1 in 2001, the team at Viry has produced a new engine for every season -- the last of which was the title-winning V8 engine for 2006. In 2007, the regulations impose the unit we ran in China/Japan 2006 as the basis of the new engine, with a fixed rev limit of 19,000 rpm. Our work has consisted of optimising the engine to operate in these new conditions and on improving its installation in the chassis.
Q: How was the development programme managed?
RW: The use of an homologated version of the 2006 engine was agreed on 18 September 2006. By this stage, we were already well advanced with the development of our engine for 2007, design of which had begun in late 2005. Our immediate task was to modify the content of the development programme according to the framework of the new rules. For example, this meant abandoning all gains that would have been achieved by the traditional route of increasing maximum rpm, which were rendered obsolete by the rev limit.
We assessed which developments would be relevant in order to re-optimise the engine for its new 19,000 rpm limit, while still complying with the regulations, and altered the focus of our programme accordingly.
Q: In quantitative terms, what did these changes represent?
RW: In recent years, successive new engines from year to year have had over 95% new components. RS26 was a successful engine, and its successor was always going to be an evolution. With the new constraint of the engine homologation rules, only about 10% of the parts are changed relative to 2006. Although the engine is named RS27, these modifications are much less extensive than in previous years.
Q: The regulations also permit changes to the engine for the purposes of car installation...
RW: Indeed. By September, most if not all teams had already defined the engine's installation in the chassis, and this additional latitude was permitted in order to avoid unnecessary complications with the introduction of the new homologation rules. Our guiding principle has always been that races and championships are won by the whole racing package, not the engine alone. As always, we collaborated very closely with our colleagues in Enstone on optimising the installation of the engine in the chassis in order to produce the best-integrated package possible. We are pleased with the results.
Q: What is the significance of the agreement to supply Red Bull with engines for 2007?
RW: The agreement has two immediate benefits: firstly, it strengthens Renault's presence in the sport, and secondly it partly compensates the reduced development activity that we will see under the homologation rules. Supplying twice the number of engines presents our partners and suppliers with additional challenges, which they have responded to with their usual professionalism and expertise. Our priority now is to kick off the new relationship smoothly -- and to maximise the advantages it brings until the start of the season, notably in terms of additional pre-season mileage to achieve our reliability targets for Melbourne.
Q: What will the development programme for the RS27 engine look like?
RW: Clearly, the development programme is much reduced relative to previous years. The regulations do not permit any development within the sealed perimeter of the engine for the duration of the current season, and following years. That naturally restricts our work to optimising how we use the engine in the car, and the areas of electronics and ancillary components. We have planned our activities accordingly.
Q: Will the new rules alter the engine's duty cycle at the track?
RW: The new regulations will certainly have an impact. The lower levels of grip from the 2007 tyres inherently reduce the severity of the duty cycle, but this is partly compensated by the year-on-year gains from aerodynamic development. The artificial rev-limit is also important.
As the limit is below the maximum for which the engine was designed, we will seek to run the engine at or near the new limit for a greater proportion of the time -- thus increasing the severity of the duty cycle. This is something we have taken into account in the re-optimisation process, and our goal during pre-season testing will be to achieve our traditional goal of 'zero-defect' reliability by the time we reach the first race in Melbourne.
Q: Recent months have seen an agenda published concerning future engine technical regulations. What is your opinion on them?
RW: The agenda published in December by the World Motor Sport Council contains some very interesting ideas that are in line with the technological development goals of the major European automotive manufacturers.
For Renault, continued development of the spark ignition engine and a focus on CO2-neutral fuels are areas in which the manufacturers share a common vision. At this stage, the future seems rich with technical challenge and promise, and we look forward to participating in the process that can help take Formula 1 in a direction that is relevant to the technological goals of the wider company.