Analysis: Renault's engine penalty dilemma

Renault now faces a tough call on whether or not to take engine penalties at the Canadian Grand Prix after its Formula 1 power units successfully got through Monaco with no issues.

A spate of failures earlier this season means that both Red Bull drivers and Max Verstappen have already used up their allocation of four power units.

Had there been further problems in Monaco, then the French car manufacturer would have had no choice but to bring in a fifth unit in Montreal, which will earn its drivers grid penalties.

But with tweaks having ensured the power units survived the Monaco weekend, Renault now has the option of holding fire on bringing a new engine on board.

It could choose to wait until the Austrian GP next month, which would allow it more scope to perfect reliability tweaks and perhaps introduce more performance too.

The key factors

Renault must first of all understand if the engines used in Monaco have suffered any damage and are at risk of failing if they are used again in Canada.

Its F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul told Motorsport.com: "We will have to debrief at the factory and do the analysis of the engine to see if it is all as good inside as it looked from the outside.

"As you know, even though the engines are completely homologated, you can still do a little bit of analysis of the fuel and the lubes to tell you what is going on inside.

"That is what will take place to confirm if we can use again those engines on Friday and also on Saturday and Sunday, and what is the engine allocation plan for now.

"That is quite important because one thing we want to have is even more reliability but also more performance."

Performance needs to come

Renault's focus so far this year has been in curing its reliability issues rather than focusing on performance.

Motorsport.com understands that the key area of focus is to cure an issue with the pistons which has caused a lot of the early season failures.

It know it needs to deliver performance steps later in the campaign, which is why holding back on delivering new engines would help give it more options later on, especially when it comes to deploying its development tokens.

Tactical penalty

Even if the engines are given the all-clear, then Renault could still choose to bring the fifth power unit in to play in Canada for tactical reasons.

If it believes that there are enough performance and reliability grounds for doing so, it may conclude that starting further down the grid at Canada is not such a bad option.

The long straights of both Montreal and Austria do at least allow overtaking, which could counter any grid penalty handed out for the better engine.

FIA clarification a complication

At the Monaco GP, the FIA issued a note to teams to tell them that any reliability update for engines would now need eight days' notice.

This means that if Renault does want to change pistons for the Canadian GP, then it will need to make a decision this week.

Despite the complication that causes, Abiteboul welcomed the fact that the FIA had got tougher, as he suggested rivals had been pushing through a lot of changes on reliability grounds.

"You will be amazed to see the number of changes that go through without using any tokens on the grounds of reliability or a fair and equitable process," he said.

"I am not surprised as last year, there were 50 coming from all engine manufacturers. In terms of process I am sure it is a nightmare to handle so I am not surprised the FIA wants to put more control into that."

Ultimately, it just means Renault will have to decide within the next few days what its plan is, rather than perhaps waiting until the Montreal weekend itself.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Teams Toro Rosso , Red Bull Racing
Article type Analysis