Q&A with White on Renault alternator issue

Thursday 28th June 2012, 17:51 by Ryan Wood 

Renault Sport F1 deputy managing director Rob White ( LAT Photographic)

Q. What was the issue with the Red Bull and Lotus cars during the European Grand Prix?

Rob White: On both Sebastian and Romain's car, the alternator - which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy to power the engine and ancillary systems - failed. In both cases the failure of the alternator cut the electrical supply, causing the engine to shut down very quickly and stop the car on the track. It appears that both alternators overheated. We've checked over the parts thoroughly now and it seems that there were no obvious reasons for the failure, so we are conducting further tests on the dyno at Viry to replicate conditions and double checking the findings.

Q. Were the failures linked to the safety car period?

RW: No. We had evidence that the alternator on Sebastian's car was showing signs of overheating before the safety car period, but the slower speeds prolonged its life expectancy slightly. Of course, when Sebastian went back up to racing speed the problem stepped up again and the result is now well known. With Romain's, the problem occurred very suddenly some laps after the safety car had been withdrawn.

Q. Has this type of problem happened before?

RW: This has never happened with the Lotus team before. We had one issue with Red Bull over winter testing but this was because we were pushing the car and the engine to the absolute limit to find out how far we could go. Once we had signs of issues, we went more cautious with the settings. We did have one issue with Vitaly Petrov's car in Monaco but when we investigated the problem, we found that the alternator in question had completed over 4,000km and was due to be serviced very shortly. As a result we decreased the amount of time between alternator services to a much lower figure. We felt that this was a sufficient measure.

Q. Were the two that failed at the end of their lives?

RW: No, in fact they were brand new parts, which points to the fact that this may be an issue with a particular batch of alternators. Both had been shaken down on the dynos at Viry for approx 400km and completed FP3 and qualifying without any issues and then failed suddenly in the race. Both had completed less than 1,000km.

Q. Is the alternator a Renault-built part?

RW: Yes it is a Renault part. We use various suppliers for the sub-internals but we build the alternators so we are responsible for the integrity of the part. We are now working with all the suppliers to make sure we can get to the root cause of the problem and ensure it does not happen again.

Q. What kind of counter-measures or safeguards are you going to put in place now?

RW: We are looking at several solutions. The first is to use another batch of alternators for Silverstone across all our clients, or a slightly modified design. We are also looking at returning to an older specification of alternator from 2011. Then we are working across all our partner teams to potentially introduce some mechanical and cooling solutions, or changing a few settings on acceleration maps so the running is less severe. All of these will be in evaluated between now and Silverstone, plus we will also look at everything after Friday running and see what additional measures we may need to take.

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