Renault’s on-track results on its return to Formula 1 gave us little to talk about. But having now laid down the foundation steps of its ‘new team’, can the French manufacturer return to old glory?
Renault’s return to Formula 1 was always going to prove difficult, given the circumstances of their takeover of Lotus.
The team started the season on the backfoot with an underdeveloped car - a direct consequence of the delay in buyout talks with Enstone-based squad’s previous owners Genii capital.
While the French manufacturer managed to make a big step forward on the engine front, the upgrades were not matched by the chassis department. As a result, the car remained team’s achilles heel for the entire year.
Naturally, results were hard to come with the team scoring points at only three occasions over the course of the 21-race season.
Renault were also taken aback by the early form of newcomers Haas, pushing the French manufacturer down to ninth place in the constructors championship.
When Renault repurchased the Enstone-based squad, it wasn’t in the same shape as it was a few years ago. The team had lost nearly 100 employees, including several high-profile figures from the technical department, while several parts of the factory were rented out to increase revenues.
So, when Renault completed the takeover, its primary concern was rebuilding the squad by hiring some of the best people in the business.
Existing staff across the managerial and technical departments were also shuffled as the French manufacturer laid foundation to a team that it hopes will return it to its old glory.
In stark contrast to McLaren-Honda’s strategy, Renault went for an inexperienced and largely unproven line-up of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer.
Magnussen lived up to his McLaren promise in the first part of the year, rocketing from 17th place on the grid in Russia to take seventh at the chequered flag. However, his pace started to fade as the season progressed, with a solitary point in Singapore being his only consolation.
Palmer’s season was the direct opposite of Magnussen’s. As we’ve seen in GP2, Palmer usually takes his time before getting to grips with a new series/team. Hence, it was only in the second half of the year where the Brit started to show his worth, often beating Magnussen in both qualifying and race.
However, Renault appeared to question their line-up from early on, looking to other teams for replacements. That probably didn’t go down well with both Magnussen and Palmer, who clearly felt there were unable to show their true pace in inferior machinery.
But Renault’s search for a star driver didn’t prove futile, with the outfit managing to lure Nico Hulkenberg away from Force India as replacement for Haas-bound Magnussen. It was a big coup for Renault and it reunites Hulkenberg with former boss Frederic Vasseur, with whom he won the GP2 title on his debut in 2009.
by Rachit Thukral