LONDON (Reuters) - Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul posted a picture of a pair of boxing gloves on Twitter as he packed for Sunday’s ‘round two’ of the Formula One season in Malaysia and he may need them.
The French manufacturer and former world champions Red Bull have been increasingly uneasy partners since the introduction last year of the V6 turbo hybrid power units.
Mercedes, dominant last year, romped to another one-two in the Australian opener on March 15 and Red Bull’s patience is running low.
The tensions had been ratcheted up already before Melbourne when Red Bull designer Adrian Newey suggested there was “no obvious light at the end of the tunnel and all sorts of failings” with the engine.
“It’s one thing where you’re not competitive but you can see your way out of it,” he told the Daily Mail, before a race that saw Red Bull’s Russian Daniil Kvyat fail to start when his gearbox failed on the way to the grid.
“It’s another when you’re not competitive and your partner doesn’t seem to be willing to deal with you.”
His team principal Christian Horner said in Australia that the engine was “undriveable” and accused Renault of making “a retrograde step”.
“They’re obviously in a bit of a mess at the moment,” he added.
Abiteboul hit back this week, telling France’s Auto Hebdo magazine that Newey was charming and brilliant but had spent a lifetime criticizing engine partners and was too old to change his ways.
In a Renault preview of Sunday’s race at Sepang, Abiteboul recognized Renault had fallen short but called for teamwork.
“We need to work together to understand our issues, both within the Power Unit and the chassis,” said the Frenchman, who will appear with Horner in what should be a lively Friday news conference.
“Our figures have shown that the lap time deficit between Red Bull and Mercedes in Melbourne was equally split between driveability issues, engine performance and chassis performance.
“It’s therefore the overall package that needs some help and we have been working with the team to move forward.”
Remi Taffin, Renault’s director of operations, said Malaysia should be more of a benchmark and offered a chance to “press the restart button”.
“Our design development group has been working non-stop to create counter-measures to improve driveability and reliability and correct the issues we saw in Melbourne,” he added.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer