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Renault's Rob White has confirmed the widely held belief that his company's engines are "significantly" down on horsepower compared to its rivals.
The Mercedes unit is believed to be the most powerful but, under the current engine freeze, manufacturers are not allowed to improve performance. Despite the deficit the Renault engine has still won five grands prix in the back of the Red Bull this season, but White admitted his company "cannot be satisfied" as long as it is down on its rivals.
"I believe the maximum power of the Renault engine within the useful RPM range is not as good as the best of its competitors," he said. "Analysis of observed car performance supports this conclusion but it is impossible to accurately quantify differences in engine power except by comparison of power measured on the dynamometer."
He added: "Of course, characteristics of the engine other than its power contribute to the performance of the car. Driveability, heat rejection, weight and installed stiffness are significant, but overall car performance is most sensitive to engine power. Renault is committed to supply fully competitive engines and we are confident that this is possible within the current rules framework administered by the FIA, but we cannot be satisfied while the power of our engine remains significantly behind the best."
White said that since the engine freeze was introduced in 2007, a number of changes to the regulations have resulted in some units benefitting more than others.
"The reasons for this deficit are historical, resulting from engine developments undertaken during successive cycles of engine homologation," he said. "Changes to the engine have been restricted by the sporting regulations since the 2007 season but the way in which the engine is used has changed greatly during the same period.
"For example, we have seen two reductions in maximum RPM, engine life has doubled, KERS was installed and removed, and refuelling has gone. These changes have been handled by 'retuning' the engines and by allowing limited modifications. The engine suppliers have operated within these rules to develop the engines currently racing and, considering that the engines are all different, as are the internal constraints within the engineering teams, the outcome after a number of "open-loop" iterations is understandable."
He also said that Renault was in a position to increase its engine supply outside the factory team and Red Bull if there was demand. It has been rumoured that either Williams or Lotus might make the switch from Cosworth, but White said nothing was set to be announced.
"We have an excellent relationship with Red Bull and we hope to continue to build on it for the future. We have the capacity to supply additional teams in the future and would be willing to do so if it was good for Renault and for the sport as a whole. We would maintain our policy to supply strictly the same performance specification to all Renault powered cars. There has been speculation in the press, with different teams mentioned from time to time, but no announcement is imminent."