• ESPNF1 interview: Rob White

'The 2014 power units will be a bigger challenge'

Dhananjay Khadilkar
August 11, 2011
Renault Sport F1's deputy managing director Rob White talks to ESPNF1 about all things engine related, from the sound of 2014 to the potential success of Williams with Renault engines

Rob White is Renault Sports deputy managing director © Sutton Images
There have been no high-profile engine failures for Renault this year, does that amount to a job well done?
Overall, we are very pleased with the results achieved by all our teams. It is reassuring that the problems we may encounter have looked minimal to the outside world. One of the things that is absolutely on top of the list of priorities in modern Formula One is achieving racing reliability. We have to aim for zero faults. In order to be competitive and fully satisfy our customers, we have to have a level of service that is extremely high. It's not easy to get there and it requires large effort from people who work in the factory and on the track. It's a testimony to Renault F1 that we have managed to achieve it.

Formula One will once again have the Williams-Renault combination from next year…
We are very pleased to bring Williams into the fold. There was a very successful period in our previous relationship with them. Over the past couple of years, we have had sporadic contacts with Williams. We would be able to fully satisfy Williams if we do a better job with them than they were able to do with their current engine supplier.

Will we see a repeat of the old success with Williams?
We should be very realistic about this. Of course, we are very optimistic about the partnership, on both sides, to work hard and deliver the best possible performance. There are no rights that result from any previous success. Any future success needs to be worked for and delivered. Our task is to work with Williams, provide them engines to make them competitive and give technical support in order to give them best possible chance to move on from the performance level that they currently occupy which we all know is not satisfying for them.

From next year, you will be supplying engines to four teams, three of whom are very strong going by their past and current records. How difficult would it be to maintain a balance between these teams?
We enjoy the challenge of being pushed by our teams. It is an important part of our business that we supply engines to multiple teams. Our operations are organised so that it's done in a fair and transparent manner. The basic engine is the same for all the teams. We have dedicated resources, groups of people dedicated to each team at the track. The number of people that come in direct contact with the individual team is limited. Team specifics and team owned information are fundamental to the success of our relationships and to the competitiveness of different teams using our engines. Protecting this information is an important part of our business. We are very conscious of protecting individual interests of individual teams. It's a very important subject. If we make a mistake on that stuff, it is very severely dealt with internally.

A Renault RS27 engine on a dynanometer at Viry Chatillon
Compared to the current V8s, is designing the new engines going to be a big challenge?
From 2014, we have new regulations with a new family of engines. In fact, we should not simply talk about engines but power units... the 1.6 litre V6 turbocharged engines, bigger KERS unit, electric power in the pits etc. It is something of an unknown. The new power units for 2014 are definitely more complex and going to be a bigger challenge.

A lot has been made about the way the 2014 engines will sound…
There will be some differences in how the 2014 engines sound compared to the current engines. I guess when we moved years ago to the other direction, from turbocharged to naturally aspirated engines, there was a difference that we got used to. The introduction of turbochargers and reduction of revs will result in less noise. However, it's extremely important to understand that these are going to be special engines that will make lot of noise, which would be a sort of a success factor for this formula.

What is your reaction on Gilles Simon joining PURE?
I have known Gilles for a long time. We have had good relationships with Gilles in his previous jobs at Ferrari and the FIA. We expect to continue to have good relationship with him at PURE. Nevertheless, the first reaction is a little bit of surprise and discomfort that an important staff member from the FIA to whom we had given quite open access over the course of recent discussions about rules can pop up in a different role as an employee of a competitor. We had given access to Gilles and any other member of the FIA technical staff about the technical work we were doing, the state of our finances, the project planning, the resources we deployed etc. We would like to be reassured that information to which Gilles has had access to in those very privilege circumstances as a representative of the FIA is not used in his new capacity as an employee of a competitor.

How will the addition of one more engine supplier from 2014 change the situation?
We don't yet know who will provide engines in 2014. These are big engineering projects to be accomplished. We expect to be at the first race in 2014 with a Renault engine. We expect to have four teams in 2014. I guess other people have expressed opinion on how many teams they would like to have. If we assume there will be 12 teams in 2014 then the remaining eight teams will be shared by other people. Of course, knowing Formula One what it is, things may change a bit between now and then. The fundamental thing of course is that nobody has yet made any formal announcements as to who they will work with in 2014. It will become clear over the coming months.