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Michael: Engine murmurs are bullshit

NEWS STORY
25/09/2010

Mat Coch writes:

Complaints over the performance of the Renault engine are unfounded, and are simply a case of teams lobbying for performance upgrades, according to Williams Technical Director Sam Michael. The straight talking Australian suggested the belief that the Renault is down on power is "just bullshit."

"You've only got to look at the speed traps in Spa and Monza; there's nothing wrong with the top end of that engine," Michael contends. "All it is is other teams trying to get a competitive advantage. It's an engine that's been on pole, what, thirteen out of sixteen races or something? So you try and tell me that engine doesn't have enough power."

Michael believes there is, in reality, little to choose between any of the engines on the grid. While some may boast increased power, others counter with greater fuel economy, better drivability, or any number of subtle differences which ultimately sees the engines more or less equal. So minimal is the difference, according to Michael, that the difference between the best and worst engines is worth no more than two tenths of a second a lap.

Encouragingly for Williams though their Cosworth power plant still has room for improvement. "Cosworth have a lot of things to improve and work on, and they're doing that. They've been doing that since the start of the year. We gave them a very hard time about lots of different things to really get their engines to the front, because they asked us to.

"One of the reasons they wanted to be with Williams is because we would cane them, if you like, and they asked for a good caning, so we gave it to them. I think they're responding quite well to that. If you look at the progression they've made during the year, especially on the control system and drivability, it's massive what they've done. It's really impressive to see."

After a difficult start to the season, when the team worked hard to accommodate the new unit, Michael feels they're now beginning to catch up in the development race.

"We spent the first five or six races trying to catch up, because we had the engine change over the winter," Michael explains. "That put us back a long way, on a lot of our programs which we would have been through before, like F-ducts and blown diffuser. All we're really doing is bringing things for the car we should have brought earlier."

That push has not distracted the team from it's 2011 car, which promises to be more competitive than the current machinery given the stability the team has been able to maintain.

"From a design point of view the last bit of effort we really put into this car was before the August break, so it's just been going through production. Both the wind tunnels were focussed on the new car from August, but the 2011 car was in one of our wind tunnels from March."

With stability on the technical front, the only significant area of change, as far as Michael is concerned, surrounds the tyres. Without any data to aid the development of the car, the team is forced to take an educated guess. That however could have implications for the entire aerodynamic design of the car, including barge boards and the front wing.

The wake the new Pirelli tyre leaves behind it at racing speed is, at this stage, unknown to the teams. Pirelli have intentionally kept all data to themselves, preferring not to lead a team in the wrong design direction.

With or without the information the Williams technical boss believes mechanical grip will not be such an issue. For 2011 the teams will have a common weight distribution, which will make how the tyres worth through the air, and how that air can be worked over the car, more crucial than ever.

Looking even further ahead it was also revealed that an announcement on engine regulations for 2013 isn't expected for months. While it's widely understood a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine has been tabled, it's now with the engine manufacturers themselves for debate. A formal set of engine regulations are understood to have been produced, however even once agreed upon by the engine manufacturers they will still need to clear the Technical Working Group, a process Michael claims will take months.

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