Italian GP: Red Bull worried by double retirement at Monza
By Berthold Bouman
A rare double retirement for Red Bull during the Italian Grand Prix, the last time both drivers were out of the race was during the 2010 Korean Grand Prix. But Red Bull is more concerned about the alternator issue which caused the retirement of Sebastian Vettel, and cost him sixth place and eight points, and is less worried about Webber’s spin which flat-spotted his tyres, forcing the Australian into retirement due to the heavy vibrations caused by his badly damaged tyres.
It was also the second time this season the Renault engine ground to a halt with an alternator failure, the same happened during the European Grand Prix at Valencia, on that occasion it cost Vettel the victory and 25 valuable championship points.
With those points, Vettel would have been second in the Drivers’ Championship, now he is fourth. Red Bull is still leading the Constructors’ Championship with 272 points, but rival McLaren is just 29 points behind them, without the alternator issues the Austrian outfit would have had 33 points more. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was obviously disappointed yesterday and said, “It’s something that needs to be rectified. It’s very disappointing but we need to work with Renault to try to understand it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The retirements are very costly according to Horner, “We can’t afford to not be finishing races. It makes the mountain higher but both the drivers are still in the race for the championship and we’re leading the constructors by 29 points with seven races to go. We’ve just got to make sure we throw everything at it.”
Renault had made adjustments to the alternator after the European Grand Prix, but the problem is obviously still not solved, the one on Vettel’s car failed again on Saturday morning, and once again during the race. According to Helmut Marko, the one on Vettel’s car was a new-spec alternator, while Webber still had an old-spec alternator.
It is believed the Red Bull team uses a smaller battery pack for its KERS unit to save weight, but that means the alternator has to work harder to charge it, heat builds up and ultimately the alternator fails. That is also the reason why we hear the somewhat nebulous messages on the Red Bull radio during a race, telling drivers to not use KERS too extensively, or to not use it at all, and often both drivers are given instructions to change the settings which regulate the charging and discharging of the batteries of the KERS unit.
Renault’s Cyril Dumont said, “We changed the alternator on Sebastian’s car, but unfortunately we had the same failure in the race.” And he explained, “We are still looking into why this happened, but we do know that even though the alternator was being operated entirely within the prescribed range, the part itself overheated and shut off the power supply.”
And the Frenchman added, “We have to apologise to Red Bull Racing as clearly this has hurt us in the Championship. We have no option but to sort it out, and it will still be a priority before Singapore.” And to set the record straight, the alternator is actually supplied to Renault by the Italian Magneti Marelli company, a Fiat subsidiary and electronics specialist, and is not produced by Renault.