Given that Renault’s takeover of Lotus was finalised only in December last year, the Enstone-based outfit was always going to start 2016 season on the backfoot. Before the purchase, little effort was given on the development of what came to be known as the RS16, leaving Renault just over two-and-a-half months to get the car ready for pre-season testing.
While the situation made it impossible to start the season with a competitive car, it is fair to say that Renault has been unable to make much progress in the first part of the year.
Chassis remains the team’s achilles heels, with setup issues hurting them even further. Upgrades to the power unit, however, have delivered the promised step, as attested by customers Red Bull.
Overall, the team has managed to score points at only one race, Russia, where Kevin Magnussen finished seventh.
That’s partly because Renault had much bigger tasks in hand. It had to create a new managerial structure to lead the outfit, while subsequently recruit hundreds of engineers and mechanics to boost up the staff number.
It also needed to reclaim some parts of the factory that had been rented out during the Lotus days, while preparing plans for future expansion.
The objective of the team was clear from the beginning: lay the foundation of a team capable of winning championships.
Instead of recruiting a star driver to lead its outfit and make its intention clear from the very beginning of its return, Renault chose an inexperienced line-up in form of former GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer and ex-McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen.
While Magnussen’s performance has been satisfactory since two troubled weekends in Australia and Bahrain, he hasn’t shown any signs of a top driver - at least for now. For all the promise he holds, the Dane must show more glimpses of pace, even though he is severely compromised by his machinery.
Palmer, meanwhile, has had a difficult year so far, often trailing his teammate in both qualifying and the race. His crashes, particularly in Monaco, only brought him more criticism.
No wonder Renault is looking at other options for 2017, while confirming that both Magnussen and Palmer remain in the frame.
What can they manage in the second half?
There is little one can expect from Renault in the second half of the season. No major upgrades are scheduled either on the chassis or the engine side, with the outfit having firmly diverted its resources to next year.
The team would probably like to consolidate its position in the championship, while the drivers themselves would have to up their pace and prove their worth with some competitive outings.
by Rachit Thukral