After winning two championships in the mid-noughties, Renault returned to the sport in 2016 following a five year absence. With a strong driver line-up the team is definitely pushing to move towards the front of the grid.
|First F1 Appearance||1977 British Grand Prix|
|Team Principal||Cyril Abiteboul|
Renault made history from their first entry in the sport in 1977 – their car was the first turbocharged car in Formula One. With little in the way of results in the first few seasons, 1979 was a breakthrough year for the team as they scored their first Grand Prix victory at their home event. Future French racing legend Alain Prost joined the team in 1981 as a replacement for the injured Jean-Pierre Jabouille and he finished in the top three of the championship every year between 1981 and 1983, narrowly missing out on the title in 1983. Prost’s comments about the lack of pace in the car at the end of that season saw him dismissed for 1984. The team slipped down the competitive order in the following years, and they pulled out of the sport after the 1985 season, citing expenses as being too large to justify as their reason for quitting. Renault had begun to supply other teams with engines from 1983 onwards, though they ended their involvement in the sport completely ahead of the 1987 season. The manufacturer returned as an engine supplier for Williams in 1989, and went on to have championship success with the team in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997.
This team itself is commonly referred to as ‘Team Enstone’. Originally the Toleman team in 1981, the team became Benetton in 1994, moving its base from Witney in Oxfordshire, to Enstone, where the DNA of the team has remained ever since, despite changing names above the door. As Benetton, the team led Michael Schumacher to his first championship victories in 1994 and 1995 and also won the Constructors’ Championship in 1995.
In 2000, Renault purchased the Benetton team and re-branded it as Renault F1 for 2002. The team performed amicably, and finished fourth in the Constructors’ Championship. Jenson Button was dropped from the team for 2003, largely due to tension with Team Principal Flavio Briatore. Button was replaced by Fernando Alonso, who became the sport’s youngest ever Grand Prix winner at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix. Alonso was joined by Giancarlo Fisichella for 2005, winning on his début for the team. It was Alonso who was the more consistent performer throughout the year and eventually became World Champion at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Despite a challenge from McLaren, Renault also took their first Constructors’ Championship, ending six years of Ferrari dominance. In 2006, Alonso and Renault repeated their title success after a season long battle with Schumacher and Ferrari.
Alonso left for 2007, and the team switched from their iconic blue and yellow Mild Seven livery, to a more understated white, blue, yellow and orange livery to tie in with their new sponsorship from ING. Renault struggled during the season, managing to amass just one podium over the year and slipping to fourth overall (third following McLaren’s exclusion). At the end of the 2007 season, Renault were accused of being in possession of technical information from McLaren. The FIA found the team in breach of the regulations, but they were not penalised.
Alonso rejoined the team for 2008, and he won two Grands Prix. However, Renault made international headlines in 2009 when it emerged that Alonso had won the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix after his team-mate, Nelson Piquet Jnr., had been instructed to crash by the team. The damning evidence led to Briatore and Pat Symonds being immediately sacked from the team. Renault were handed a ban from the sport, suspended for two years – meaning that they would only be banned if a similar race-fixing event took place over the next two season. Briatore was banned from FIA events for life, while Symonds was given a five-year ban. The bans were later overturned, and Symonds returned to the sport in 2013. Briatore has never returned to the sport.
With their reputation dented, Renault sold a majority stake in the team toward the end of 2009. The team retained the Renault name for 2010, and Éric Boullier became the new Team Principal. Ferrari-bound Alonso was replaced by Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov also joined the team, becoming the first Russian driver to start a Grand Prix. Renault scaled back their involvement in the sport once again at the end of the season, becoming only an engine supplier to other teams. The French manufacturer had success in the following years, powering Red Bull to all four of their Constructors’ titles.
In its years as Lotus between 2011 and 2015, the team had a return to form. Kubica severely injured himself in a rallying accident between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, putting him out of Formula One. He was replaced by Nick Heidfeld, with Petrov continuing in the second car. Petrov scored a podium in the first race of the season, while Heidfeld did the same at the next round. The team’s pace faded throughout the season, and Heidfeld was replaced by Bruno Senna. 2012 saw an all-new driver line-up as Grosjean returned to the team and Kimi Raikkonen returned to Formula One. Raikkonen impressed, and scored victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, while Grosjean received a one-race ban for dangerous driving at the Belgian Grand Prix. The team finished fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, and would do the same again in 2013, with Raikkonen winning the season opening Australian Grand Prix and Grosjean becoming a much more well-rounded driver.
At the start of the hybrid era, Lotus plummeted down the competitive order due to the unreliable Renault power unit. Grosjean was joined by Pastor Maldonado, with the pair scoring just ten points over the entire season. The team began to struggle financially in 2015. They switched to Mercedes power, with Grosjean’s surprise podium at the Belgian Grand Prix being a highlight in their final season.
Renault announced that they would return to the sport in 2016, after buying out the financially struggling Lotus team. Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer joined as drivers in a car which was designed around a Mercedes engine. The transition to Renault power certainly made things difficult, and the pair managed to score points on just three occasions, guiding the French team to ninth in the Constructors’ Championship in their return season.
At the start of 2017, it seemed as if Renault had lost direction. Team Principal Frederic Vasseur left the team, along with Kevin Magnussen, who cited a lack of commitment from the team as his reason for leaving. Their 2017 driver line-up was made up of Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer, with the latter failing to score until a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix. It is without question that the Renault package improved over the season, though reliability struggles in the latter stages prevented Hulkenberg and Palmer’s replacement Carlos Sainz the opportunity to score many points.
Heading into 2018 with a strong driver line-up, Renault seem to have found their direction once more. Their target is to be battling at the front in 2019 and they need to make considerable steps forward this season if they are to achieve that. Renault have finished ahead of McLaren in the past two seasons, so keeping it that way as they begin to supply the British team with engines should be a priority.
TEAM ENSTONE’S RECENT F1 HISTORY
|2010||5th (163 points)||0||0||Robert Kubica, Vitaly Petrov|
|2011||5th (73 points)||0||0||Nick Heidfeld, Vitaly Petrov, Bruno Senna|
|2012||4th (303 points)||1||0||Kimi Räikkönen, Romain Grosjean, Jérôme d’Ambrosio|
|2013||4th (315 points)||1||0||Kimi Räikkönen, Romain Grosjean, Heikki Kovalainen|
|2014||8th (10 points)||0||0||Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado|
|2015||6th (78 points)||0||0||Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado|
|2016||9th (8 points)||0||0||Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer|
|2017||6th (57 points)||0||0||Nico Hulkenberg, Jolyon Palmer, Carlos Sainz|
|2018||Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz|