Could the Renault alternator be Red Bull's undoing?


Staff Member
Renault have shed some light on the now infamous alternator issue.

After Vettel and Romain Grosjean retired from Valencia, Renault suspected a batch problem so reverted to older stock for subsequent races. It then introduced a new design with 30 per cent greater capacity.

"It is bigger but it has failed again," explained Taffin. "If you can make a parallel to Valencia it is only that both alternators failed after around 500km, and here was the same.

"The three units were 500km old, so when you ask me what we can do, then we need to test to 500km and it starts to get a bit tricky. I think we are facing a big mountain but we will climb it."

Taffin explained that the failure is caused when the alternator's internal temperature gets too hot for it to be able to produce the electrical energy that the car requires.
More here:

Reading between the lines, it's clear that Renault have no idea why it is failing.
This doesn't bode well for the remaining races, of which several will have high air and track temperatures.

I suspect the design of the Red Bull also doesn't help, with everything crammed in as it is and little space for air to cool the part or the heat to dissipate.

Their double retirement at Italy was their first since Korea 2010 and they are the only one of the four big teams (the others being McLaren, Ferrari, and Renaul) to do so this year.

If Renault don't get a handle on this quickly, it could be the single reason why Red Bull fail to secure the WDC and WCC this year.
In an era of such high reliability it has to be worrying for Red Bull that they're in a situation where they're losing points to a Renault alternator. Bit odd that Vettel has lost three of the things but Webber none, though!
Christian Horner is not impressed. There's an interview on autosport in which he sharply makes the point that the last time Red Bull failed to score a point at a race (Korea 2010, as has been said) it was the fault of the Renault engine as well.
Assuming that both the Bulls and Lotus use the same alternator, it is interesting, to me at least, that Lotus hasn't had any failures (that I know of). Therefore, I would think the problem is one of installation in the RBs. Or perhaps they tax the alternator more (requiring more output than the Lotus), although I think that is less likely.
Just to widen this up a little, it should be noted that electrics are the weak point of Redbull and have been for a few years. They have no end of issues with KERS and other than catastrophic failures of the engine leaving bits all over the road, they normally attribute reliability failures to the electrics in one way or the other...
One of our intrepid comentators (Steve Matchett) stated that different teams will use different alternators...i.e. not the "exact" same component... but both drivers in that team will use the same equipment...

It is curious that MW doesn't suffer the same issues that SV does... maybe he manages them a little better... maybe SV pushes the envelope a little more... certainly adds an extra layer of complexity to the run in for the WDC and WCC...
Adrian Newey cars have a history of this sort of problem - he pushes the packaging to the limit, with minimal airflow for cooling to enhance the aerodynamics. When he joined the team this was the impetus behind the change from Ferrari to Renault power - the Ferrari ran too hot for his liking.

In most races there is a time when you can manage temperatures, so there is potential to design something that wouldn't be reliable if it was run at 100% for an entire event but offers a benefit elsewhere. Underfuelling is much the same principle.
I have this suspicion that Seb doesn't take too kindly to pit wall input ala "no KERS"; "do not use KERS" or "engine setting sloooooooow"... I think he still monkeys about a little too much with what he has been told not to use or do... whereas I remember numerous races when MW drops off the pace... and we are told later that he had to manage issue A or issue B to get to the finish...

I know we get delayed radio transmissions ... so when you hear a message that tells SV not to use KERS... and during that lap or the next he is using it... you can either assume that he has been told it is OK again... or that he is misbehaving a little...

One thing for sure is the electical gremlins love living under the RBR cowling...
Assuming that both the Bulls and Lotus use the same alternator, it is interesting, to me at least, that Lotus hasn't had any failures (that I know of).

Lotus have had 2 alternator failures that I know of, Grosjean at the European Grand Prix, and d'Ambrosio at Monza during a practice session.
At the risk of sounding like Mr Thick of Thicksville I assume that the alternator is considered part of the engine for replacement purposes and therefore even if they suspect the thing will go boobs north after 500km they can't replace it with a new one after every race otherwise it wouldn't be such an issue.
The teams are allowed to change bits, and I believe that the alternator would be considered as an anciliary, rather than an integral part of the engine, so changes should not be an issue. Well, providing they can fix the issue....
More details on the issue.

As investigations continue at Renault's Viry-Chatillon base in France to find out exactly what has gone wrong, the engine firm's deputy managing director Rob White believes that the parts may be overheating at low revs.

That could explain why the alternator issues only came to light at Valencia and Monza, as both have low speed corners.

AUTOSPORT understands that the first alternator issue came to light over the Monaco GP weekend where there are also very slow corners.

This factor means there will be added urgency to get the matter sorted before the next race on the tight Singapore circuit.
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