Post-race investigations by Renault have, not unexpectedly, confirmed that overheating issues were the causes for the alternator-related retirements of Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean at last weekend’s European Grand Prix.
But the big news story coming out of this is that – contrary to the allegations raised by Vettel and Red Bull
mouthpiece advisor Helmut Marko – the mid-race safety car interruption had nothing to do with it.
The investigation at Renault’s Viry headquarters indicate that several overheating parts caused a power cut in the engines’ internal workings, triggering the respective retirements of the two drivers touted as the most likely to claim victory.
“We’ve checked over the parts thoroughly now and it seems that there were no obvious reasons for the failure, so we are conducting further tests on the dyno at Viry to replicate conditions and double checking the findings,” Rob White, Renault Sport’s F1 deputy manager explained.
But White added that the mid-race safety car interruption – brought about to clear debris after a collision between Jean-Eric Vergne and Heikki Kovalainen – had nothing to do with the retirements. In fact, the slow-down helped prolong the engine life in both cars.
“Of course, when Sebastian went back up to racing speed the problem stepped up again and the result is now well known. With Romain’s car, the problem occurred very suddenly some laps after the safety car had been withdrawn.”
But the double-DNF has caused Renault to investigate the batch of alternators it had produced for its customers, which also includes the Williams team.
“We are looking at several solutions,” White continued. “The first is to use another batch of alternators for Silverstone across all our clients, or a slightly modified design.
“We are also looking at returning to an older specification of alternator from 2011. Then we are working across all our partner teams to potentially introduce some mechanical and cooling solutions, or changing a few settings on acceleration maps so the running is less severe.
“All of these will be in evaluated between now and Silverstone, plus we will also look at everything after Friday running and see what additional measures we may need to take.”
An angry Vettel had earlier suggested that the Safety Car interruption was unwarranted, with his sour grapes comments prompting plenty of criticism in the paddock.
“I think we could have been spared the safety car period, [but] I think the reason is clear,” he said at the time to the German press.
“I don’t think there was a danger. There were pieces on the track earlier [following an earlier collision between Bruno Senna and Kamui Kobayashi] and it was acceptable, [so] I think, in a sense, the safety car was to break our neck.”
One such critic was former Grand Prix racer Hans-Joachim Stuck, who urged Vettel to rethink his criticism.
“Sebastian Vettel should learn to be a good loser,” the German said.
“It was clear there was debris on the circuit, representing a danger of puncture to the other cars. For that reason, the safety car was justified.”
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