Just 90 minutes after Nico Hülkenburg put his Renault Sport Formula One car’s strength and safety systems to the test as he flipped upside down on the opening lap of the Abu Dhabi 2018 Grand Prix earlier this week, his team-mate Carlos Sainz completed his last race for the team somewhat ironically with his best performance to date, finishing in sixth place behind two Mercedes, Ferrari and Max Verstappen’s Renault engined Red Bull.
Watching on from the pit garage was Renault Sport Racing’s Managing Director Mr. Cyril Abiteboul constantly scanning a myriad of data screens in front of him and maintaining control over the team of 60 engineers and technicians at the race track, whilst at Viry-Châtillon in France and Enstone in the UK, a further 36 engineers monitor the output from hundreds of data loggers located throughout the race car’s engine and chassis.
At first glance it might be difficult to imagine that the time, effort and enormous financial commitment needed to run an F1 team could be of benefit to Renault’s technology partners INFINITI, yet the Black S Project Car displayed at the Paris Motor Show in October 2018, is evidence that not only Formula One technology – in this case the dual MGU-H & MGU-K heat and kinetic energy recovery systems – could be utilised to create a powerful yet efficient performance car, but that techniques and processes used by the Renault Sport team could accelerate the development programme of the Black S.
“It is great to have the opportunity to demonstrate that all the investment in advanced technologies in F1 can have some form of relevance for consumer applications,” says Abiteboul. “There was a lot of criticism of the engine regulations which were introduced in 2014; everyone was complaining about the lack of noise, the cost, the complexity and so on. Now you could argue whether it was the right choice for Formula One but the reality is that it’s completely relevant, with regard to the direction that the world is taking due to the scarcity of fossil fuel and the limits on CO2 emissions,” added the Renault Sport Racing MD.
Tomasso Volpe, Director, Performance Projects and Motorpsort, INFINITI, chimes in. “In Paris we unveiled the running prototype so Black S is not a concept any more, it’s an actual car. Currently we have two chassis under development, the next step is testing on track to validate the technology and in 2019 selected media will also give feedback on the project.” That’s not the only tech they’re working with. “In addition to the 400hp of the donor car, a Q60 Red S, we have a further 163 hp due to the MGU-K which is 120kw, but what’s unique is that we have a dual recovery hybrid, which is the whole point of transferring the technology from F1.”
“We have two MGU-H instead of one, slightly different from Formula 1, and between them they recover a further 30Kw. Also we also chose to implement our F1 brake by wire technology which was needed to maximise the recovery from braking via the MGU-K. The battery is 400 volts, very strong, to allow the car to be driven for a long period,” Volpe adds.
Abiteboul further elaborates on the collaboration. “We would not have been thinking about this sort of collaboration with the old V8 or V10 which were great because they were very loud, very aspirational, but also had no real value from a business or technology perspective. It’s great to have, with this partnership with INFINITI, the opportunity to demonstrate that the partnership is reality, not just words or principal, but reality.”
“After all, what is an F1 team?” he asks. “It’s a particular group of people very competent at doing modelling, simulation and optimisation, plus proof of concept, very quickly and very efficiently, because time is money in any business. We could think that the end product may be expensive but in terms of cost efficiency and cost of the project - because the project was done in a very timely and efficient manner because that’s the way we are used to working in F1 - it’s actually very cost efficient for INFINITI. It’s been done by engineers that were ring fenced from the F1 programme but who remained part of the F1 programme therefore they were capable of leveraging synergies and expertise developed for F1 and Formula E. So you see the synergies of the Renault Nissan alliance are not just limited to road vehicles, they are also working in motorsport,” Abiteboul concludes.
Meanwhile, confirming that the car will be quick, Volpe adds that there’s going to be more to it than sheer pace. “We are positioning this car, not looking for brutal performance in terms of 0-100kph, though this will be credible at below four seconds - so still at the level of a high performance car - but what is unique is what we call the ‘smartness’ of the technology which is typical from Formula One. We have the possibility to have energy management which is flexible and gives three modes to the driver, in this case road, qualifying and race, copying in a more simplistic way what they can do in F1 with the energy management. The road drive is all about maximising the efficiency, the qualification mode gives the best lap time possible and the race mode gives sustainable performance. This is very important for us because with a dual recovery you have more energy recovered and then you have the possibility to create a product with sustainable performance.”
Project Black S is a window into Infiniti’s future portfolio, thanks to the partnership with Renault Sport Racing, taking in not just the performance but also the sophistication of Formula 1.