MANAMA (Reuters) - The night sky lit up as Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line to win the Bahrain Grand Prix for Mercedes on Sunday -- and moments later Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault engine joined the pyrotechnics.
“All the fireworks went off and the engine felt like it needed to join in,” Red Bull principal Christian Horner commented wryly.
“A fairly spectacular finish, it failed 200 meters before the line, but we had enough momentum to cross the line. I think that engine will be a coffee table in the future.”
The Australian driver finished sixth, a better result than the former champions might have expected after multiple Renault engine failures at the previous race in China and earlier in the season.
After four races, Ricciardo has now gone through three of his allocation of four engines for the season -- which means he is sure to face a grid penalty later in the year even if the allowance is extended to five next month.
The situation is embarrassing for Renault, who powered Red Bull to four successive drivers’ and constructors’ championships with the old V8s before the introduction of the new V6 turbo hybrid power units last year.
Horner said he had flown back to Paris from China before Bahrain to discuss the situation with Renault Sport chairman Jerome Stoll.
“They don’t want to be in this position. They want to be in F1 to compete and they want to win, they don’t want to be in the situation that they are, so of course that is not going to come for free,” he said.
”He recognizes that and Renault seem committed to finding a solution.
“We have had problems in every race so far, but it has to turn... Renault can’t afford for this situation to continue and they are acutely aware of that.”
Despite the ongoing problems, Horner was otherwise relatively upbeat.
“We are definitely making progress with the car. This is probably our most competitive weekend,” said the Briton.
“The problem is we are running the car in such a compromised state that we are not in an optimum window with the car. Our top speeds are down, then you end up trimming (the) wing to try and get somewhere sensible,” he added.
“Then that hampers things like tire warm-up and downforce. We are not in a window with the car where we want to be, but made quite significant progress.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar