JANUARY 6, 2004

A short cut for Renault

Hiring Rob White is a relatively radical move for the Renault F1 team. The 38-year-old Englishman is expected to go to Paris and lead a team of largely French engineers in the design of a new Formula 1 engine for 2005, despite the fact that he does not speak French. Not surprisingly, White is busy learning the language if only to be able to create relationships with the workforce at Viry-Chatillon.

White's chief value for Renault will be his specific knowledge of the design of 90-degree V10 Formula 1 engines, having been the man in charge of engineering at Cosworth Racing. The French have been looking for someone since the departure last year of Jean-Jacques His, following the company's decision to give up on the wide-angle V10 engine concept.

Renault tried a variety of moves before going to White, talking to Ilmor's Mario Illien last Spring and then trying to work a deal with Toyota to swap Mike Gascoyne for engine designer Luca Marmorini. These both failed and work was begun on a 90-degree V10 for 2005 using the engineers already at Viry-Chatillon.

White will be a loss for Cosworth, where he spent his entire racing career, beginning in 1987 when he joined the company from Ford, after completing a mechanical engineering degree at Southampton University. He worked on the development of the Cosworth DFX engines in CART and then spent two years at the new Cosworth Racing Inc. facility in Torrance, California, working on the installation of the dynos and developing the new Cosworth XB Indycar engine. At the end of 1996 he moved back to Europe and was put in charge of the engineering for the Formula 1 programme at Cosworth's Northampton headquarters.

White's influence on the 2004 engine programme is going to be fairly minimal because major architectural changes to the 72-degree engines will not be possible. It may be possible for some of his ideas to be incorporated into the engines towards the end of the current season but his main influence is going to be felt when it comes to the 2005 engine. White has a year of experience with 90-degree units, having worked on the Cosworth CR-5 which was raced last year by Jaguar Racing. He has thus had to overcome a lot of teething problems with that configuration of engine which will, hopefully, enable Renault to catch up the ground that has been lost in recent years as the team has worked on the wide-angled V10s.