JUNE 12, 2015
Renault plays down fifth engine penalties
Renault has played down the impact of the ten-place grid penalties now being served by its F1 customers.
The penalties are due to the sport's long-life engine rules, this year limiting each driver to just four 'power units' for the entire 19-race calendar.
With dire reliability trouble, the Renault-powered cars burned through their allocations within the first third of 2015, and Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen was the first to serve penalties for installing a fifth engine in Canada.
Now, Red Bull's Christian Horner has admitted that, for the same reason, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat look set to start the team's home race in Austria next weekend at the back of the grid.
Nonetheless, Renault's F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul is looking into the future with confidence.
He said the French marque is finally on top of its reliability problems, so now it will be "back to the performance plan that we have on the shelf for the remainder of the season".
And as for the penalties, Abiteboul said starting down the grid is not the end of the world.
"We don't see that as something that is a huge penalty," the Frenchman said recently.
"I know there is a lot of frustration but ten places penalty in tracks where you can overtake, basically if you have a car out of place at the start you can quite easily make it up during the race.
"So I'm sorry for my customer teams, but I don't think it's a big game changer to the championship," said Abiteboul.
Indeed, Verstappen seemed to demonstrate that in Canada, where he served multiple penalties.
He arrived in Montreal with a five-place demotion for his Monaco crash, and as he could not drop the full ten places down for the fifth engine, he served a further 10-second penalty in the race.
But Verstappen ultimately finished only three places behind his teammate Carlos Sainz.
"Max did a very good race," said team boss Franz Tost, "because, despite all of his penalties, he was still able to catch up."