Formula one teams are always seeking a competitive edge, whether it’s from engines, aerodynamics, or a few milliseconds shaved off a pit stop.
The Red Bull team was hoping to gain an advantage from its new version of the Renault engine, even though it is ditching the French manufacturer’s power units in favour of Honda for the 2019 season. But it seems that the team’s fuel supply could be holding it back from exploiting the engine’s full potential.
Testing times for Red Bull
Red Bull has a fuel contract with Exxon/Mobil, but both of the other teams using Renault power – McLaren and Renault’s own factory team – use BP/Castrol. The effect of this is that Renault has to conduct dyno tests on the engine for Red Bull using Exxon/Mobil fuel, whereas tests for both the other teams use BP/Castrol so the engines get more running time on that fuel.
BP/Castrol also introduced an upgrade to their fuel at the Spanish Grand Prix in May which has benefited Renault and McLaren. Visitors to the F1 Paddock Club https://edgeglobalevents.com/f1-paddock-club at that race will have seen Carlos Sainz Jr. take seventh for Renault with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso taking eighth. Red Bull managed third and fifth but were unable to challenge Mercedes for the top podium slots.
Missing performance in Canada
The new engine introduced by Red Bull at June’s Canadian Grand Prix was, according to head of Renault Sport F1, Cyril Abiteboul, lacking some potential performance. Whilst acknowledging that the engine did well, powering Red Bulls to third and fourth and showing strong reliability, Abiteboul believes that Exxon is a little behind in its fuel development, but that it has the ability to catch up. He notes that the engine installation in the Red Bull cars is also a little different.
Can we expect to see an improvement in the performance of the fuel and engine combination when the teams return from the summer break for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa at the end of August? Only time will tell, but Spa is a fast circuit which means that engine performance will be more critical than at slower tracks and every extra bit of horsepower the teams are able to wring from their engines will be crucial to the result.