Let’s talk power units… - Q&A with Rémi Taffin

Ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, Engine Technical Director, Rémi Taffin, discusses the present and future of the Power Unit.

What are you expecting at the Italian Grand Prix?
It’s a difficult race, where engine power makes the difference. Spa posed quite a challenge for us and Monza is at least just as restrictive and demanding. We are going to do our best to produce a strong result. We will have a very low-mileage Power Unit and will be able to get the most from it with the most aggressive modes we currently have for qualifying.

Can you talk to us about the new C specification?
The C Spec is an evolution of the current B Spec engine. It’s significantly more powerful. Conversely, it’s possibly not as reliable as the current generation, hence the different choices made by each team. Depending on fuel used, the power gain is in the order of 0.3s per lap in qualifying on a circuit like Monza, which is a substantial step forward.

Who is going to use this new specification?
As I previously mentioned, it depends on each team’s strategy and their goals for the remaining eight races of the season. Red Bull Racing will use the C Spec right from the free practices at Monza because they are in a position to prioritise performance without having to worry about those behind them in the championship. For our part and McLaren, we will not be using this specification, because reliability and consistency are the essential assets to reach our end-of-season goals.

You have introduced a new, more reliable and lighter MGU-K on the Renault, but what about the customer teams?
Today only the Renault team uses this version. McLaren and Red Bull Racing did not want to make the needed changes for its integration. They have opted to take and assume this clearly identified reliability risk. However, to respond to the demands expressed after the incident with Max Verstappen’s car that saw him retire in Hungary, we have developed an evolution of the version used by our two customers to reinforce its sturdiness.

Nico Hülkenberg was penalised at Spa after the integration of new elements, are new penalties expected from now to the end of the season?
Nico will get a ten-position grid penalty in Monza after the incident this weekend. It’s tactically interesting to introduce a new Power Unit in his car. This should enable us to end the season without any other engine-related penalties.

What is your assessment after 13 Grands Prix and how do you foresee next season?
Overall, we are still suffering from a general power deficit, but we have improved at the same pace as our competitors. This is encouraging, but clearly not enough, because our objective is to catch up and surpass them as fast as possible. We need to bring more significant performance steps next year and this is being readied now. Next year’s engine is already on our dynos and the first results are promising. For 2019, larger human and financial resources than this year have already been allocated to allow us to continue our improvement at a faster pace.