Despite speculation that it might be used at this weekend's United States Grand Prix, Renault has confirmed that its updated V6 engine will not now run in anger before next month's Brazilian race.
The unit has been running on the dyno at Viry-Chatillon and, having initially been aimed at round 15 in Russia, seemed likely to debut at the Circuit of the Americas, but Renault Sport director of operations Remo Taffin confirmed on the opening day of the USGP that it's maiden appearance had been put back a couple of rounds.
Taffin also revealed that initial testing data showed the new engine – dubbed the D-spec – had yielded a small gain over the current unit, perhaps leading to the decision not to press it into operation in Austin.
“Basically, what we bring here is the new engine and it is worth something around two-tenths if we were to use it,” the Frenchman confirmed, “Obviously, this weekend, we're not going to use it for some good reasons.
“Basically, we decided it was not the best way to achieve the weekend and to get the most out of it. First, if you look at this weekend, taking the ten-place penalty [that would accompany another change of engine] versus what we would have gained, it doesn't seem to be worth it. Also, if you look at the conditions, when it's wet the Red Bull-Renault is much better in these kinds of conditions, so it's not worth taking a ten-place penalty. If you look at the opposition, some have decided to take some penalties so, all in all, we are happy not to have the engine in for this weekend.”
Despite admitting that such a minor gain in lap-time, Taffin insisted that, with other concerns taking Renault's attention at the start of the season, any advance was positive, with more likely to come ahead of 2016.
“If you look backwards and at our starting point, we had a few failures which we had to fix, and I already stated the fact that, by Barcelona, we were back on reliability,” he stated, “If you look at Barcelona in May, they only had two or three months to decide on what could be the last specification of the year and then you have to produce parts and so on. It's more the fact that what we get out of the engine at the minute is the image of what we had earlier. If we could take the engine we had on the dyno now and put it on the car now, then it could be half a second, but it's not ready.
“We're still developing what we have got. Whether there is going to be half a second, seven-tenths, I don't know. If we have a situation in 2016 where you have to fix your hardware in the first race and everything is frozen, maybe you have a different view with what you get to race one compared to if you have development through the season. The one thing I can say is, if you look at 2016 season, it's more like 0.5s or a second we would like to get. We know a second is the sort of gap we need to fill - that's the target we have got. Then we will try to do what we achieve this year.”
Taffin went on to say that there was still work to carry out on the latest engine, making the delay in its introduction more logical.
“It's also fair to say we obviously planned to bring this engine to the race, but we still wanted to have the full validation done,” he noted, “It has been running until today and it's fair to say we still have a few bits and pieces to sort out on the final validation so, all in all, we think the best is to delay it again. If we get a good opportunity at the next race or the race after, we will go for it.”
It appears unlikely that the new V6 will be taken to Mexico for the first race there in more than 30 years, with the unique atmospheric conditions playing a part in that decision.
“Mexico is a bit of a different story,” he pointed out, “First, we can't race the new engine in Mexico for some good reasons, which is it requires a different package for the car, so the bits which have been made for the engine is for the old spec. Even if we wanted to go there and use the new engine, we can't really do that because of installation.
“It's logistics. If you change the cooling system to cope with Mexico packaging, then you have to make some parts and the parts are made for the old spec. If you really look at Mexico, it's more a question of optimising what you've got. It's going to be like an unknown area, so going in to that grand prix with the new engine, I don't think would be the best thing anyway.”
The main focus of attention with the new unit has been on the ICE, and the combustion chamber in particular, but the work in total has seen Renault spend eleven of its remaining twelve development tokens.
“It's ICE and then parts that goes around,” Taffin revealed, “Sometimes, you need to spend the tokens on ancillaries and stuff like that that fit with the new combustion chamber and so on. I won't detail all the things, but the tokens are mainly to cope with the new combustion chamber.”
Taffin also explained that it was important to introduce the engine in order to meet FIA regulations on homologation.
“The fact is we obviously have the engine homologated now so, whenever we wish, we can run it, so it has been agreed by the FIA,” he explained, “Whether we are going to run it or not, I don't know. The answer to validate all this and, at the time of speaking, it's registered as one of our specifications.”