CONSTRUCTORS: RENAULT F1

Name: Renault F1

Fernando Alonso, Bahrain GP 2005

Fernando Alonso, Bahrain GP 2005 

 ¬© The Cahier Archive

Renault Sport came into existence with the merger of Renault-Gordini and Alpine in September 1976 under the control of former racing driver Gerard Larrousse.

Alpine had previously developed a Renault turbo-engined prototype Formula 1 car, designed by Andre de Cortanze and designated the A500. In January 1977 the new company admitted that it had a Formula 1 project under Jean-Claude Guenard. In May the F1 plans were officially launched and in June the car began testing at Dijon-Prenois (although the Alpine A500 had run 14 months earlier).

The team entered Jean-Pierre Jabouille for the British GP in July that year with a team led by Jean Sage and technical director Francois Castaing. The car appeared at several more races that year without any success. There were modifications for 1978 but more frustrations as Jabouille developed the car. At the end of the year Jabouille scored Renault's first F1 points with fourth place at Watkins Glen.

The team decided to expand to two cars in 1979 and Jabouille was joined by Rene Arnoux. The two used the old RS01s for the first few races - without success - and then Michel Tetu's RE10 appeared. At the French GP Jabouille was dominant to win Renault Sport's first victory, with Arnoux finishing third. Rene went on to add two second places that year. Tetu and his team refined the RE10 to produce the RE20 for the 1980 season and Arnoux won in Brazil and South Africa, while Jabouille scored a second victory at the Austrian GP. At the end of the year Jabouille crashed heavily at the Canadian GP and suffered serious leg injuries, which effectively ended his career as a Grand Prix driver.

The RE20 was updated for 1981 and Alain Prost was signed up alongside Arnoux but the drivers struggled to be competitive until the new RE30 appeared in the midseason. With this, Prost won three victories and twice finished second to end the year fifth in the World Championship with Renault third in the Constructors' title.

At the end of the year Tetu and his team produced an updated version of the car - renamed the RE30B - and Arnoux and Prost scored four wins in 1982: each taking two victories. Prost finished fourth in the World Championship while Arnoux finished sixth and Renault was again third in the Constructors' title. Arnoux signed to drive for Ferrari in 1983 and Renault Sport hired Eddie Cheever to replace him.

The team was restructured with Castaing being promoted inside Renault and his place as technical director being taken by Bernard Dudot. Jean-Pierre Boudy took over the engine department and while Michel Tetu remained in charge of chassis design, Jean-Claude Migeot was hired to improve the aerodynamics.

The 1983 season with the new composite RE40 was to prove a big disappointment. Despite the fact that Prost won four Grands Prix, Nelson Piquet took the World Championship in his Brabham-BMW, Ferrari won the Constructors' title, and Boudy was blamed. He left to join Peugeot Talbot Sport and was replaced by Jean-Jacques His.

That season Renault supplied customer engines to Team Lotus for drivers Elio de Angelis and Nigel Mansell but neither won a race.

At the end of the year Prost also departed to join McLaren and the team hired Patrick Tambay and Derek Warwick. Tetu and Migeot produced the RE50 but it was not a success; Renault failed to win a race and dropped to fifth in the Constructors' Championship. Lotus and Ligier - which Renault had been forced to supply engines to because of French government pressure - both failed to win races.

At the end of 1984 Larrousse and Tetu both left to join Ligier. Gerard Toth was named the new managing-director of Renault Sport and Jean-Marc d'Adda headed the team building Tetu's RE60 design. Renault supplied not only Lotus and Ligier but also Tyrrell in 1985. The factory team retained Warwick and Tambay but the car was not a success and although an RE60 was hurried out at mid-season this was even less successful. Lotus did a much better job with Ayrton Senna winning in Portugal and Belgium and de Angelis in Imola. In August Renault announced that it was closing down its works team but would continue to supply the three customer teams until their contracts expired at the end of 1986.

Senna scored another two wins for Lotus-Renault in the course of the 1986 season but the Ligier and Tyrrell programs were not successful. At the end of the year Renault withdrew from F1 completely although engineers began work on a new V10 engine. Toth was arrested and charged with embezzlement related to the Tyrrell engine supply deal.

Renault returned to F1 in 1988 as an engine supplier and enjoyed enormous success in the 1990s with Williams and Benetton.

Early in 2000 Renault bought the Benetton team and returned to F1 in 2001, beginning a new chapter in the history of the organization.The team was placed under the control of Flavio Briatore and he hired Mike Gascoyne to lead the technical team. Renault's decision to stick with a wide-angled V10 engine slowed down progress but in 2003 the team scored its first win with Fernando Alonso in Hungary. In 2004 Jarno Trulli won at Monaco, only to be dropped at the end of the season for reasons which were never obvious. As a result the team slipped back with a demotivated Trulli in the second half of the year and lost second place in the Constructors' Championship to BAR-Honda.

In 2005 the team went into the season with high hopes for Alonso and his new team mate Giancarlo Fisichella and as the season progressed Alonso emerged as the World Championship leaders despite the fact that the McLaren was a faster car. In the end however Alonso and the team did enough to win both the Drivers' and Constructors' titles, achieving the ambition that had been set 29 years earlier.

Soon afterwards Alonso announced that he was leaving for McLaren in 2007, a move which caught Renault F1 management on the hop. Alonso and the team won the two World titles again in 2006 but was stuck without a topline star for 2007 and so went into the season with Fisichella and new boy Heikki Kovalainen. This coincided with the departure of sponsor Mild Seven but the team found new backing from Dutch bank ING.

Results were disappointing, however, with only one podium finish by Kovalainen in Japan. Furthermore Renault was accused of receiving confidential McLaren information, similar in a way to the spy scandal between McLaren and Ferrari earlier that year. Unlike McLaren, which lost all its Constructors points and was fined $100m, Renault was not penalised in any way.

For 2008 it was announced that Alonso would return and be joined by Renault test driver Nelson Piquet Jr., son of the great Brazilian.

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