Renault could finally switch to the split turbocharger and compressor Formula 1 engine layout that Mercedes pioneered and Honda subsequently adopted.
The French manufacturer is willing to explore a new concept for 2022, when the engines will be frozen for three seasons starting next year.
Mercedes has used the split turbo/compressor since the start of the V6 turbo-hybrid era in 2014, Honda made a troubled but ultimately worthwhile switch in 2017, and Italian media has reported Ferrari could go down that route in 2022 as well.
Renault has previously been firmly against making that change, even when it was still struggling to make significant progress versus Mercedes in the engine performance and reliability stakes.
Renault’s 2021 engine, which will only be used by its rebranded Alpine works team following McLaren’s switch to Mercedes, is only an updated version of last year’s design with no major changes.
Asked if the 2022 engine could include a change of concept, Renault’s engine technical director Remi Taffin said: “The simple answer is yes.”
And on the prospect of that meaning a Mercedes-style layout, Taffin added: “We could be going down that route. We are evaluating.”
Our Alpine blue is epic. 💙
— Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) March 3, 2021
Renault initially wanted to upgrade its engine concept for 2021, hinting that the split turbo could have been introduced this year.
However, it changed its timeline in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its planned mid-2020 update now forms the basis of the 2021 engine. That means its 2021 step will be small compared to a normal year-on-year development plan but the engine will be overhauled properly next year alongside the introduction of new 10% ethanol mix fuels.
However, even that shift in timeline has had to be subsequently amended.
The extent of Renault’s development plans has been previously hinted at in the form of its initial objection to an earlier engine freeze.
This was initially meant to be enforced in 2023, so Renault had a two-stage development plan for its new concept: creating a new baseline in 2022 and then upgrading it again for 2023.
Now that will need to be combined into one 2022 upgrade.
“We had in mind that we would have another evolution in 2023 and we could get the best out of the new baseline we had in 2022 – which is now not the case anymore, because we haven’t got 2023,” Taffin confirmed.
“But actually we’re quite happy, we can have a big push for 2022. We are trying even pushing further forward some of the evolution we had in 2023 into 2022.
“It has been a different game, but I think that’s not a bad decision.”