Renault’s Formula 1 engine chief Remi Taffin split with the company last month, ahead of a “major evolution” in 2022.
Taffin was a long-time member of the Renault programme, joining in 1999 and rising to the role of engine technical director in charge of the work at Viry-Chatillon. The engine remains badged as a Renault despite the team itself becoming Alpine.
His departure, first reported by French publication Auto Hebdo last week, took place by mutual consent in early July, an Alpine spokesperson told The Race.
Taffin is the first significant exit of the Alpine F1 era since the rebrand from Renault under CEO Laurent Rossi, who was himself installed in the position as part of a major leadership shake-up that ousted former team boss Cyril Abiteboul.
Taffin leaves just as Renault is widely expected to finally switch to the split turbocharger and compressor F1 engine layout that Mercedes pioneered and Honda subsequently adopted.
Renault had previously been firmly against making that change, even when it was still struggling to make significant progress in both engine performance and reliability.
But it has finally recognised the need for a major overhaul and its 2021 engine is only an updated version of last year’s design, with no significant changes, in anticipation of that.
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.
It then had a two-stage development plan for the new concept, creating a new baseline in 2022 and then upgrading it again for 2023, but that is being combined into one 2022 upgrade because the engine specifications are being frozen next year.
The engine weakness was recently acknowledged as part of the team’s stagnation in the midfield, prior to its shock win in the unusual circumstances of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“It’s essentially the same car we’ve had for three years, same chassis, same engine, same gearbox,” said Alpine executive director Marcin Budkowski in Hungary.
“We weren’t expecting miracles [this season]. There were still opportunities on the aero side, to do a better job over the winter.
“We’ve done a decent job when I look at our direct competitors. We’ve not done the best job, we’ve not done the worst job, we’ve done a decent job – but we could’ve done a better job.
“On the engine side, we’ve lost ground to our competitors as well because they’ve developed their engines and we haven’t, and that’s because we have a major engine evolution next year.”