Get your tin foil hats out, crank up the Beastie Boys cause today we are talking sabotage! It all started with Toro Rosso's recent string of engine failures. Their engine supplier, Renault, hit back stating that it could be the manner in which Toro Rosso is installing their engines that is the result of the failures. Thus setting us down the path to conspiracy theories and potential sabotage!
Renault's Managing director Cyril Abiteboul told Motorsport.com that Renault has "a little bit of a concern about the way that our engine is operated in the Toro Rosso car," adding "there are never coincidences." Abiteboul was referencing that where there are multiple engine failures there is something causing them not just bad luck. Abiteboul places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Toro Rosso.
This did not sit well with the Red Bull junior team. They fired back with a lengthy statement on the subject where they did not pull any punches. They highlighted the fact that they have done nothing differently from last season to this one other than improve cooling and other steps to attempt to improve reliability. They see the cause of the failures as an engine parts related problem.
"One of the primary reasons for the issues we are seeing is the lack of new power unit parts available. In Toro Rosso's case the team is constantly having to change parts from one PU to another during the weekend and, on many occasions, is forced to run old specification assemblies. The last race in Mexico saw only two cars out of six finish the race, highlighting the poor reliability."
High tuned racing engines need a regular supply of new parts to operate at their peak performance. Racing engines don't come more highly tuned than an F1 engine so having to rely on used parts is a recipe for non-competitiveness or outright parts failure. If said team is not receiving those parts the end result is a rather predictable string of unreliability.
Where things begin to get interesting is the fact that Renault's factory F1 team was a mere five points behind Toro Rosso entering Brazil. Couple that with the fact Toro Rosso is switching to Honda power for 2018 and suddenly the conspiracy theories start to come out.
"We mustn't forget that they are fighting with Toro Rosso for a better position in the Constructors' championship. As suggested by Mr. Abiteboul the situation may not be a coincidence, but it is certainly not due to STR's car." Toro Rosso's statement concluded.
That is a not so subtle way of mentioning what everyone was thinking. Could the parts shortage be a result of Renault sabotaging Toro Rosso? The relationship has soured so much that there was even genuine concern in the Toro Rosso camp that Renault would break contracnt and not supply them with engines for the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Those rumors have since been put to bed by Renault's Alain Prost.
Is there real sabotage going on here? Only Renault can answer that question completely. This entire situation is more likely the result of a disappointing season winding down. Frustrations that have built for an entire season have boiled over and the end result is a pissing contest in the media. Is there something fishy going on at Renault? Probably, this is F1 after all where nothing is exactly as it appears.