Toro Rosso dismisses Renault's claims amid growing power unit failures
In a fresh controversy brewing in Brazil, Toro Rosso has hit back at Renault over the recent power unit failures, which the Faenza-based outfit has been facing. Toro Rosso had a troubled Mexico Grand Prix and started the Brazilian Grand Prix on the backfoot, with penalties already in place.
With pressure mounting on the French manufacturer, Renault's chief Cyril Abiteboul on Friday suggested the failures is more related to the specific team, adding that they had concerns on the way Toro Rosso operates the engine in its cars - along with admitting that they are equally disappointed with the situation.
However, the Red Bull junior outfit dismissed any concerns from the team's side, releasing a statement on Saturday - further suggesting that Renault maybe doing this as they are in a battle for sixth position in the constructors' championship.
"Due to recent accusations made in the media from the team's engine supplier, Toro Rosso wishes to clarify the actual situation regarding the power units. It comes as a big surprise to the team that Cyril Abiteboul has suggested to the media that the problems Toro Rosso suffers with the power unit are primarily team-related, and the way in which the power unit is operated in the STR12 chassis.
"We would like to clarify that all the MGU-H and Shaft failures Toro Rosso has recently suffered are not associated with how the team is operating or with how the PU is integrated in the chassis. Nothing has been changed or altered in this installation during the 2017 season, other than cooling improvements mid-season.
"Since the summer break, Toro Rosso has suffered continuous power unit related failures, and the resulting grid penalties has cost the team points and relative positions in the Constructors' championship. 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 [Renault-powered] cars out of six finish the race, highlighting the poor reliability.
"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."
With two races remaining, Renault is just five points behind Toro Rosso in the championship. Penalties to Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley this weekend means, it will be difficult for them to bounce back and score points, while there is every chance for Nico Hulkenberg and Red Bull's loaned Carlos Sainz to finish in points.
Renault's reliability has been a point of discussion this year, especially with Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen, who endured several retirements in the early part, while its own driver Jolyon Palmer was also in the line of fire.
The Renault-powered cars together have suffered 34 retirements along with one DNS this season - which includes the on-track incidents - in fact, in the seven races since the summer break, it has 13 DNF's between the six cars.
While the controversy may die down with Toro Rosso switching to Honda in 2018, but the relation between Renault and Red Bull maybe strained even more. And with the decision looming for the senior team, whether to extend with Renault beyond 2018 - this might just unsettle the talks as Red Bull may opt for Honda, if the Japanese manufacturer improves its power units.
UPDATE: Following the statement, Abiteboul was seen having a heated conversation with Marko before FP3. Speculations suggested of Renault trying to find ways to pull-out from providing engines to Toro Rosso for the rest of the weekend and Abu Dhabi GP.
Team principal Franz Tost dismissed the rumours as he feels Renault has no clause to take this kind of decision. Clarifying further, Red Bull released a statement from Marko, which read: "Over the last 10 years, many successful, we have been through every emotion with our current engine supplier.
"As usual at the end of another long season, emotions are running high but it is a valued relationship and will remain so. There has never been any question that we have not been treated fairly and equitably by our engine suppliers. And that is still true today."