Q&A with Rémi Taffin, Renault F1 Head of Track Operations
"We want every team we supply to be a potential race-winning team"
Have you introduced any new trackside procedures this season based on your experiences in 2012?
What we will see in 2013 is actually an evolution of the structures put in place following the restructure as an engine supplier in 2011. Last year we felt we consolidated the
operational side, with our procedures and structures allowing us flexibility to adapt to the culture of each team. We could ensure that the engine was correctly optimised in line with chassis developments, including the Coanda effect exhaust systems, which were progressively introduced across the year. Being responsive enough to incorporate and positively influence developments of these magnitudes is something we have worked hard at, and we want to continue this into 2013. This consistency in our procedures is something we will also lean on as we seek to improve across-the-board reliability. Last season proved that, yet again, every single kilometre needs to be completely on point to achieve 100% reliability.
With this being the last year of the V8, have you got any areas left to exploit trackside?
Obviously the working window to explore becomes smaller and smaller each year. Of course we continue to function within the rules, but to seek out every last area we can to improve the performance of the RS27 and our service to our clients. We need to be completely on top of every item and, unfortunately, one area we could do better in is reliability. We have looked long and hard at every single part and every single procedure to seek the last percentile from each.
In 2011 it was blown floors, in 2012 engine maps and Coanda effects – what do you expect to be an area of development this year?
We will see the Coanda effect again this season, although with a year of development under our belts the gains will become smaller. There are a few remaining tweaks we can introduce on engine mapping that will improve fuel consumption even further, but with this being the end of the V8 era we will try to make the engine as neutral as possible.
Are there any parts you have revisited to improve extra reliability this year?
Purely technically, we have worked solidly through the winter to sign off different fixes for our main 2012 reliability issues. It showed that, even in an engine freeze era, it’s not that easy, even if you don’t change a lot of parts. That is however the difference between
dealing with maximum performance and changing specs every race and dealing with reliability and frozen specs – you need to look after consistency in manufacture and production quality, which are not at all the same issues.
With a potential 19 races this year, what impact will this have on engine management over the year?
If we have one less race this year we would actually have a bit more flexibility within the engine pool to deal with engine management. It’s not a major advantage but it does give a bit more to play with if we need to.
After one year of partnership with Williams, what are the key points to work on this year?
We will definitely build on the strong links we recreated in 2012. Now every single procedure is in place and we must trust these to deliver. We will push on engine installation and engine usage for each customer though, not just Williams. It is important to remember that a key factor will be our ability to work on both 2013 and 2014 engines programmes in parallel, which is why it is crucial to have a turnkey service in place trackside.
How has the relationship with Caterham progressed after two complete seasons together?
We can now say that we work very efficiently with Caterham and it is difficult to see a big difference with the bigger teams, operationally speaking. Obviously the cars fielded by teams are always different but we trust Caterham to score their first points this year. All the signs are good as they are now settled in their new facilities, the workforce is larger and more experienced and the budgets are completely in line with what is needed to succeed. It’s going to be a really good day when we score points together!
Red Bull is a demanding customer…what can you deliver to help keep them ahead of the field?
We share the same fighting spirit. We like them to push us and we are always proud to answer quickly and efficiently to their requests. It is even more rewarding when we are able to propose new solutions to make the car faster. Firstly we need to secure our reliability to get back to a normal situation and then we will be able to push the limits again. That is why we have worked so hard on reliability.
Lotus returned to winning ways – has this relationship settled down its current format?
Rather than returning to winning ways, I think it is normal to see Lotus winning and we will keep on supporting them in the same way. In fact we didn’t change our working pattern after Renault left the team to Genii. Obviously we still have a very close relationship with the Enstone-based team and we always welcome their new ideas and help them as much as we can: they are clearly involved in filling our dynos’ schedule! More importantly however is the fighting spirit we have built up within the individual engine teams: we want every team we supply to be a potential race-winning team.