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Formula 1

A ‘completely different’ 2022 F1 engine has quietly impressed

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

The Alpine Formula 1 team’s massively revised Renault engine should be run at full power for the first time this week after an impressive testing debut in which it was “not even a talking point”.

Alpine heads into the second and final three-day test in Bahrain this week with a mileage deficit to its opposition but was happier with how its pre-season began in Spain than the bare statistics might have suggested.

A key part of that was the engine, which drew basically no attention through the opening week – much to the team’s delight.

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Renault’s works team willingly compromised its 2021 season by the Viry-Chatillon engine division not developing its power unit and instead focusing its resources on a major development project for 2022.

The organisation conducted a “back to front” review of the power unit, according to Alpine’s new F1 technical director Matt Harman, and “decided to change the architecture of that power unit extensively in all areas including the internal combustion engine, the ERS, the turbo and its positioning in the car”.

This is believed to include a switch to the split turbo layout that Mercedes pioneered in 2014.

Alpine’s new A522 was only completed the day before the start of the Barcelona test two weeks ago but ran “completely trouble-free” at first, Alpine’s sporting director Alan Permane has said.

A “silly” split pipe caused a dramatic fire and stoppage for Fernando Alonso on the final day in Spain but Permane said the car had run “really reliably and really, really well” until then, with the revised power unit key to that.

“I don’t think we’ve ever done a lap on what they call ‘single ICE mode’ here, which is the quali and race mode,” said Permane at Barcelona.

“So we haven’t done that. We’ve come close to it, but not full whack.

“Honestly, we haven’t spoken about the power unit. And that’s a great thing.

“It’s so different, it’s completely different to anything that Viry have produced before.

“It’s more complex, it certainly looks a lot nicer and neater. But it just goes in the car, and we’ve just got on with it, which is great, honestly.”

The new power unit is a vital test for the Renault works team.

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It has been a lingering weakness for the group during the V6 turbo-hybrid era and unlike the other manufacturers – in particular Honda and Ferrari – Renault made the conservative decision not to develop its 2021 power unit more while also running a parallel 2022 programme.

That has put pressure on the 2022 design, especially as F1 engine homologations are being frozen this year until the end of 2025. While reliability changes will be permitted, any performance deficit will be baked in.

“The drivers have had the normal comments about some little bit of drivability here and a bit of surge here and maybe a bit of turbo lag,” said Permane.

“And the guys have just got on top of that, and played with the settings and mappings and stuff and it’s gone away.

“So it hasn’t even been a talking point really, which is great.

“I think it’s very difficult for them to talk about power compared to last year because of the fuel differences. And the big car differences.

“But they’re certainly not complaining about it. We’re very happy about that.”

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