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Renault hit back at Red Bull as engine row rumbles on

Cyril Abiteboul slams "lying" and says engine not only to blame

Renault Sport F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul chats to Red Bull's Christian Horner
Image: Renault Sport F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul chats to Red Bull's Christian Horner

Renault have hit back at Red Bull, accusing the former world champions of “lying” and denying their engine is solely to blame for the team’s poor start to the season.

In a renewal of the war of words between the two parties which flared up last season, Renault came under fresh fire from Red Bull chief Christian Horner in the wake of the season-opening Australian GP when his team finished a lap down on Mercedes.

Describing the French manufacturer’s engine programme as being in “a bit of a mess”, Horner claimed Renault had gone backwards in performance in the fortnight since the final pre-season test to the point where their engines were a massive 100 brake horsepower down on Mercedes in Melbourne.

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Horner’s comments were made after Red Bull designer Adrian Newey had already said that there was “no obvious light at the end of the tunnel” to Renault’s travails, which have been apparent since F1’s return turbo engines at the start of 2014.

But having been publicly rounded on by their principal engine partner in recent weeks, Renault have hit back at Red Bull ahead of this weekend’s Malaysia GP. Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport’s managing director, insisted Newey’s criticisms were unwarranted.

“It’s hard to have a partner who lies,” the Frenchman was quoted as saying by The Sun.

“Adrian is a charming man and an outstanding engineer but he has spent his life criticising his engine manufacturers. And he’s too old to change.”

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Having being usurped by Mercedes as F1’s benchmark team at the onset of the sport’s new era of hybrid technology, Red Bull were already outspoken in their criticism of their French supplier last season with their complaints eventually prompting an overhaul of Renault’s engine programme.

Former Caterham team boss Abiteboul was hired with Red Bull’s blessing, while legendary engine guru Mario Illien is being used as a consultant to help drive improvements at Viry-Chatillon, although his input isn’t expected to be felt until later in the year. Renault have the most engine development tokens of any manufacturer - 12 - left to use druing the season.

However, despite holding their hands up to chronic driveability problems with their engine during the Melbourne weekend, Renault have argued that it isn’t only their power unit which is holding Red Bull's RB11 back.

“Australia certainly wasn’t an easy weekend and we fell short of our own expectations, and those of our clients. We need to work together to understand our issues, both within the power unit and the chassis,” Abiteboul said in Renault’s Malaysia preview. 

“Our figures have shown that the lap-time deficit between Red Bull and Mercedes in Melbourne was equally split between driveability issues, engine performance and chassis performance. It’s therefore the overall package that needs some help and we have been working with the team to move forward.”

The growing tension between Red Bull and Renault appears to have been underlined by a Tweet from Abiteboul prior to his departure to Malaysia, with the Frenchman tweeting the image of a pair of boxing gloves alongside the words: “Packing up to Malaysia. Race (round?) 2.”

Cyril tweet

Fittingly, Abiteboul and Horner will appear alongside each other in the Team Principals' Press Conference at Sepang, which will air live on Sky F1 at 8am on Friday morning.

Sky Sports F1 will show every session from the Malaysia Grand Prix weekend live and available on the move with Sky Go. The race starts at 8am on Sunday March 29, with comprehensive build-up underway from 6:30am.

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