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Renault says speed will decide exhausts strategy

Nick Heidfeld, Renault, Valencia 2011Renault says that it will not be afraid to ditch the forward-facing exhaust concept that it pioneered if a new rear design proves to be better.

Although the team's R31 was built around the idea of forward-facing exists to make the most of blowing air under the car, the team suspects that there could be advantages from a Red Bull Racing-style blown diffuser instead.

A test of an initial design at Duxford last month provided some promising feedback on the design and, as AUTOSPORT revealed, the team is experimenting with rearward facing exhausts in practice at the Nurburgring after fitting it to Nick Heidfeld's car.

Renault technical director James Allison says the team is not hung up on pursuing either concept, despite the investment it has made in the forward system, and the decision will ultimately be made on which design it thinks is quicker.

"You commit to a layout before you turn the wheel, and we know that at the point where we committed to the forward exhausts it was head and shoulders better than the rearward exhaust configurations at the time," he told AUTOSPORT.

"We tried dozens of each design, we committed to the forward exhausts, and it worked reasonably well for us. We had a tolerably competitive car.

"However, as we headed into 2012 we had to know if we had chosen the right direction, so we tried the rearward exhausts during one of our straight-line testing days. The purpose of that was to make sure that we were not heading down a blind alley with the forward exhausts.

"It had been scheduled for a while and, in between the scheduling and the test, the whole blown diffuser exhausts shenanigans kicked off, and that outcome of that was that we took all of the worries out of the exhausts for next year because you will not be able to blow the floor.

"The rearward exhausts were not really relevant any more, but we ploughed on anyway with the tests - especially as our car is not on pole and clearly other cars were going quite a bit quicker with the design.

"At the test we saw some interesting numbers, numbers that were sufficiently interesting, that we thought we would bring it to Germany, run it around a track and then see what the driver says."

When asked if it could race this weekend, Allison said: "Yes. If it makes the car go quicker, but we would need to have a good improvement, and we would also have to be confident on its reliability. We just want some answers to the questions we got out of Duxford."

As well as the exhaust experiments this weekend, Renault is introducing a raft of other updates to its R31 at the Nurburgring as part of a package of updates that are coming for the next few races.

* For a full analysis of the Renault exhaust set-up, why the team believes the upgrades will help turn around its fortunes and what has gone wrong for the team this year, see this week's AUTOSPORT.

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