Scuderia Toro Rosso has launched a stinging attack against outgoing engine partner Renault over claims that the Italian team is to blame for the succession of power unit issues it has experienced.
The Red Bull junior outfit will switch to Honda power units next season, but its final races with the French carmaker’s powerplants have been marred by a string of engine failures.
Both its drivers, Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, suffered grid penalties at the preceding Mexican Grand Prix and will again take grid drops for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix after each suffered power unit failures in the opening practice session at Interlagos. Hartley stopped with smoke billowing from his STR12, while Gasly was forced to abandon the session with a failure in the MGU-H, which had just been replaced.
Hartley will serve a 10-place grid penalty for the race, while Gasly will drop 25 places.
Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul claimed in an interview with Autosport that the succession of incidents were down to Toro Rosso’s operation and installation of Renault’s power units, hinting that the failures were not coincidental.
His remarks prompting an angry press release from Scuderia Toro Rosso leading up to Saturday’s final practice session, which accused Renault of failing to provide enough working parts.
The statement reads:
“Due to recent accusations made in the media from the team’s engine supplier, Toro Rosso wishes to clarify the actual situation regarding the power units
“It comes as a big surprise to the team that Cyril Abiteboul has suggested to the media that the problems Toro Rosso suffers with the power unit are primarily team related, and the way in which the power unit is operated in the STR12 chassis.
“We would like to clarify that all the MGU-H and Shaft failures Toro Rosso has recently suffered are not associated with how the team is operating or with how the PU is integrated in the chassis.
“Nothing has been changed or altered in this installation during the 2017 season, other than cooling improvements mid-season. Since the summer break Toro Rosso has suffered continuous power unit related failures, and the resulting grid penalties has cost the team points and relative positions in the Constructors’ championship.
“One of the primary reasons for the issues we are seeing is the lack of new power unit parts available. In Toro Rosso’s case the team is constantly having to change parts from one PU to another during the weekend and, on many occasions, is forced to run old specification assemblies.
“The last race in Mexico saw only two cars out of six finish the race, highlighting the poor reliability.”
The team concluded its statement by darkly hinting that its ongoing reliability issues could directly benefit the Renault factory team, which sits just five points behind Toro Rosso in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
“We mustn’t forget that they are fighting with Toro Rosso for a better position in the Constructors’ Championship, as suggested by Mr Abiteboul the situation may not be a coincidence, but it is certainly not due to STR’s car,” the statement concluded.
Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost continued the team’s attack in an interview with Sky Sports.
“The statement was a reaction to Cyril’s interview yesterday, where he blamed the team for the power unit failures, which is absolutely wrong,” Tost said.
“If we do something which is not okay then we tell it, but MGU-H failure or shaft failure is nothing to do with installation of the power unit.
“The fact is that we don’t get new parts, we are just changing old parts from one power unit to the other, therefore we are suffering and therefore we have reliability issues. We are also not happy about this as we pay a lot of money, we just expect new, good material.
“If we change the power unit, I expect getting all the grid penalties that we get a new power unit with new MGU-H, MGU-K, new turbo, all these parts should be new, then we don’t have a problem. “If we change from one old engine to other old parts then you cannot expect [that] the reliability reaches a high level.”
With Renault figureheads demanding an apology for the media release, Tost refused.
“What should I apologise for? For all the damages we have? I am also upset, then both [of us] are upset. Who started all this nonsense? Cyril yesterday with his stupid interview [with Autosport].
“Should I say, ‘Oh fine, good interview from him, we accept it’?, No we don’t accept it. Therefore we came out with our statement. That’s it, nothing [more] to say.”
Red Bull advisor Helmut Mark – no stranger to attacking Renault in the past – sought to calm the situation and defended Renault’s reputation and record as an engine supplier.
Posting a statement to Red Bull Racing’s website, Marko said: “Over the last 10 years, many successful, we have been through every emotion with our current engine supplier.
“As usual, at the end of another long season, emotions are running high, but it is a valued relationship and will remain so.
“There has never been any question that we have not been treated fairly and equitably by our engine suppliers, and that is still true today.”
Image via LAT Images