Renault-engined cars continued to struggle on the third day of Formula One preseason testing at Jerez.
Reigning world champions Red Bull completed just three laps before Daniel Ricciardo's car was confined to the garage. Caterham did 10 laps, none of them timed.
Only Toro Rosso managed a decent run, getting in 30 laps—but the car proved highly unreliable, causing two session stoppages. Their quickest lap time was almost seven seconds slower than the best of the day.
Renault admitted yesterday that they had identified a problem with their energy store (ERS battery) telling Autosport:
You have to bear in mind that a power unit is made up of a lot of sub components, and it is not a matter of one of them not working.
It is clearly a problem of integration of all these systems.
In particular, for this problem, we had to fix the problem through the energy store—but I am not going to go into detail due to the nature of the architecture of our system.
But today that was supposed to be fixed, and the blame—down at Red Bull at least—is being placed squarely on the team's shoulders. Autosport's technical expert Gary Anderson revealed that Red Bull's electronic installation is (apparently) the problem this time:
The technical rumour mill in the paddock suggests that Renault is less than pleased with Red Bull's installation of the control electronics in its 2014 car.
Changing an installation like this is not easy because there simply is not any spare space left over in a car, which means if this is at the root of the problem Red Bull will almost certainly have to make a fix work with what space it has.
The packaging problem is thought to relate to cooling—specifically, that the ERS system isn't receiving enough of it.
Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey is known for trying to package his cars as tightly as possible for maximum performance, and it appears to have backfired.
Both Caterham and Toro Rosso (Renault powered cars) are out. No Red Bull though. Rumours of cooling troubles likely true? #F1
— The F1 Times (@F1Times) January 30, 2014
If this is indeed the case, one has to wonder why no one said anything earlier.
As the Renault works team, Red Bull receive more attention and assistance than any of the French manufacturer's other clients.
That includes a hefty slew of Renault engineers at the Red Bull factory, who work with Red Bull to fit the engine to the car in the best possible way.
Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner spoke of this relationship to Autosport in mid-December:
The status we have as their works partner means that the maximum effort is going into optimisation of the engine and the Red Bull car.
Renault has worked very closely with us on the installation of the engine and we have concentrated where they can.
They [have their] specialist area, our area is the chassis, so it has been a collective effort over the last couple of years to integrate the engine.
Obviously something in this setup, which has an excellent track record to this point, isn't working as it should be.
Any Red Bull fans out there hoping to see some proper running tomorrow shouldn't hold their breath. This one may not be fixed until the second test in Bahrain next month.