Flashback: Peugeot and Renault V10 Formula 1 engines compared

Maurice Hamilton lifts his camera at Magny-Cours in ’94 as a TV presenter discusses the merits of French-made F1 engines

Moncet Engines M Cours 94

Ask any F1 engine designer for their name these days and chances are the management of the team concerned will need to hold an urgent meeting before giving any consent. As for daring to look at the subject of their automotive creativity, six burly mechanics with tattooed legs are likely to find the need at that moment to stand between you, the power unit and just about anything F1 paranoia might consider to be of interest.

I used to find it amusing when, on the rare visit to an F1 factory, I would be instructed not to look too closely at the cars for fear of spotting the latest tweak under development. It was necessary to reassure my hosts that they could have a flashing neon arrow hanging from the ceiling, pointing at the prized part, and I wouldn’t have the faintest clue what I was looking at, never mind its performance significance.

The accompanying image from 1994 was not taken because, as you will have gathered, the engines themselves were the focus of my attention. It was the fact that they were there at all. This is the spacious paddock at Magny-Cours, home event for Renault and Peugeot. The importance of the French Grand Prix for the manufacturers notwithstanding, it was a surprise to see the V10s wheeled out for public scrutiny.

The respected F1 writer and presenter Jean-Louis Moncet is doing a piece-to-camera for the French TV station TF1. Moncet arranged this comparison by leaning on his friendship with Bernard Dudot, the boss of Renault F1 engines, and Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Dudot’s counterpart at Peugeot.

The French manufacturers were two of nine different engine suppliers in 1994. Going into this seventh round of the 16-race series, the championship was being led by Benetton, powered by a Ford Zetec-R V8. Renault, represented by Williams, was second in the title race but the combination was still reeling from the tragic weekend at Imola two months before. Things would remain difficult at Magny-Cours as Michael Schumacher led every lap for Benetton, with Damon Hill giving vain chase in the Williams.

Compared to Peugeot, admittedly in its first season of F1, that was a reasonable result for Renault. The Peugeot-powered McLarens went out with engine failure – but at least Mika Häkkinen and Martin Brundle had 48 and 29 laps of racing apiece.

A week later at Silverstone, Brundle’s V10 blew up in a ball of flame on the starting grid. Given the fragility of engines and reputations, it makes Moncet’s televised scoop even more extraordinary.