While there remains scepticism over how the new rules will affect F1, especially in terms of how it sounds, Renault Sport F1's Deputy managing director (technical), Rob White, insists that speed will not be compromised.
How different do you think the Power Unit will be between engine manufacturers?
We have to imagine there is an optimum solution within the technical and sporting constraints and that different competitors will approach the optimum in different ways, at least in the beginning. Within each different PU project, the immaturity of the technology means that there could be rapidly changing performance, and as at the start of any radical new technical change, we expect progress will be extremely quick. The relative pace between competitors could therefore change more than we are accustomed to. But we should not underestimate just how competent the F1 teams are - the steps will be rough but large, and the convergence on an optimum solution will be rapid.
Will we still retain the speed under the new regulations?
The short answer is yes. What was an academic question in the beginning has become a lot more real from every point of view, but we have no need to worry. Obviously we are still in the virtual world and not on track but we have measured PU performance on the test bed and have matched the most optimistic predictions. We believe that the Power Unit will deliver a lot of power and will be more than enough to make cars quick. The way that the cars will deliver this performance will be somewhat different this year due to the PU and aero regulations. The driving experience will be quite different, but we will absolutely see real speed out on track.
And there will still be racing in 2014?
This year there will be a lot of factors that drive unpredictable outcomes and from most people's standpoint, unpredictable results are good in a sporting event. We need to keep hold of some of the fundamental elements; there will be 22 cars on the grid and when the lights go out the guy that gets to the flag first is the winner. In between there will be a battle for positions on track, meaning there will be real racing. The way in which the races are managed by the teams is one of the big differences between 2013 and 2014. It is fair to say there are several different ways to skin a cat and this will produce different scenarios as we explore different possibilities about how to manage energy and power. Although the tool kit that we have is different, the fundamentals of the races remain very similar. Ultimately it is for the drivers to go for the opportunities presented to them.
Will drivers have to change their style to the new regulations?
The drivers are astonishingly skilled to detect the limit of the performance envelope of a car and adapt their driving to reach the limits. In the past, drivers have always been adept at adapting to different systems, such as the F-duct, KERS and so on, without too much issue: it's always remarkable to observe just how very close they can get to the theoretical limits. I do not think there will be a discussion of whether drivers are 'intelligent' or not - it is about being adaptable, just as they were with any other change.
How has Renault Sport F1 had to adapt to the challenge of the new Power Unit?
It is fair to say that we have had to strengthen the organization and refresh the infrastructure at Viry to adapt to the very new environment of the Power Unit. We have recruited additional staff, some seconded from our parent company to complement the skills and experience of the existing Viry team. Additionally we have had support from Renault specialists and dedicated resources off-site, such as the materials laboratory. At the factory there have been upgrades to existing facilities and investment in new facilities adapted to the development of the Power Unit and its sub-systems including direct injection, turbocharging and electrical content. In parallel we have created new facilities at Mecachrome including a new dyno where the full PU will be signed off before delivery to the track.