McLaren has successfully resolved the packaging problems it had in installing the Renault engine without making any changes to its 2018 Formula 1 chassis design.
After three seasons of failure with Honda, the British team ended the agreement and signed a customer engine deal with Renault for next three years.
Renault’s engine is expected to give a much-needed power boost to the McLaren car, but it was not a smooth switch. McLaren’s Technical director Tim Goss revealed that the team had to make a lot of changes at the back of the car to fit in the French manufacturer’s turbo and energy recovery systems.
Explaining the challenges, Goss said: “The Renault architecture is very different,”
“You have two fundamental engine architectures out there.
“You have the Mercedes/Honda approach, and you have got the Ferrari/Renault approach. Essentially the difference comes down to where the turbocharger sits.
“The Mercedes/Honda approach is you have the compressor on the front of the engine, the turbine on the back of the engine and the MGU-H sat in the middle of the V.
“The Ferrari/Renault approach is that you have got the compressor sat at the back of the engine, the MGU-H behind it and the turbine behind that.
“They require a very different approach to your chassis and your gearbox, and now we have had recent experience of both we can see there are pros and cons of both.
“There are things I love about the Renault approach and there are things that frustrate me a little bit, but in the end we were fortunate that the decision to move from one engine to another was made just in time. It couldn’t have been made any later.”
Renault’s engine packaging affected many areas in the car including the fuel tank, gearbox, and rear suspension. The team had to reconfigure numerous items to make sure the package fits within the chassis.
“We had to reconfigure the chassis, change the cooling system and reconfigure the gearbox to make it fit,” he said.
“But we’ve managed that in time without any significant compromise to the chassis. It was quite a big change.
“The Renault engine will sit further forward in the chassis. With the Honda you had the air intake that had to come down into the front of the engine, and that volume came out of your fuel cell. So as a result, the chassis was longer.
“But then what you hadn’t got was a turbocharger sat off the back of the engine, which then gets in the way of your inboard suspension.. So you ended up with a much easier task at the back of the engine.
“When you move to a Renault, suddenly the front of the engine becomes a lot simpler and as the result we win back a substantial amount of fuel volume.
“You can push the engine forwards and the aerodynamic blockage of the engine and exhaust is considerably better, because that has moved forwards behind the chassis.
“But then you have a turbocharger that is sat in the bell housing and, as a result, to accommodate that you have to redesign your rear suspension internals and lengthen the gearbox.
“But we’ve done a fantastic job. A really fantastic job. It was very, very intense. We had pretty much two weeks of very intense effort to get it sorted, but we knew pretty much what we needed to do.”
Stepping up Performance
McLaren is known for its chassis, and by the end of last season, it was becoming clear that the iconic British racing team is back in the business. But due to lack of power in Honda engines, it was hard to compare the team’s performance with that of Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull.
Although McLaren is upbeat about its chances in the 2018 campaign, Goss knows that every team has an opportunity to revamp their design and take a big step forward.
“Obviously you choose the architecture of the car at the beginning of the season, and there are some things that are built in that you cannot really change during the season,” he said.
“So when you redesign the car, that is your opportunity to make those changes. I think people will, through looking around at other cars, be able to make those changes.
“You would expect there to be a step and, given the cars are relatively immature, you would expect it to be a bigger step than in previous seasons.”