Renault: No Serious Formula One Engine Upgrade Until 2018

Renault-powered teams are in for a rough wait.

byJames Gilboy|
F1 photo


Renault's Formula One engine has been at a power deficit since the advent of the new engine regulations in 2014. Despite closing part of the gap to leading provider Mercedes, the French car company, now fully back in Formula One with their own factory team, is still running underpowered engines compared to their rivals. This lack of power has held all three current Renault-powered teams back—Red Bull stands third, with half the points of the leading Mercedes and Ferrari teams, while Toro Rosso and Renault stand fifth and seventh respectively, each trailing Mercedes customer teams.

But there's no quick fix coming. According to Cyril Abiteboul, the current managing director of Renault Sport F1, the Renault power unit will not be receiving any major updates to shrink the gap between Mercedes and Ferrari until some time next year. However, he's been clear that small improvements are made with frequency; in his words, "every single race."

On the positive side, reliability has not been of much concern for Renault-powered teams this year. They've been on par with competing engine makes this year in that regard, with each engine suffering only one on-track failure. When component usage is examined, Renault sits in between Mercedes and Ferrari, with the latter of the two appearing to go through a turbocharger as often as every two weekends, though Renault's reliability appears to be marginally superior at best.

The promised 2018 boon for Renault customer teams may end up being a significant boost—Abiteboul made mention of "a completely new concept," meaning the engine's architecture will receive a total overhaul to account for new technologies or design theories realized since the design of the 2017 power unit.

There's no talk of immediate success on the chassis side of Renault Sport F1 either, with 2020 as their estimate for a Renault car capable of winning races. They may come close sooner than that, however, if their 2018 redesign puts them on par with their German and Italian rivals.