(c) Logo is copyrighted to Renault Sport
In my first feature of “The Factory” I will take a look at the manufacturers in motor racing and have a look at where they are potentially heading. In this first segment I take a look at Renault.
As an entity, Renault Sport Racing was officially established in 1976 after the merger between Alpine and Gordini.
They have a long history involved in different areas of motorsport, in WRC they won the Constructors title as Alpine-Renault in 1973 and had relative success with their R5 Turbo and the R17 Gordini, until they departed from international rallying in 1994 , though supplied cars in the European Rally Championship which won three times in 1999, 2004 and 2005.
They have competed in and run their own events in Hillclimbing, Off-Roading, Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula Renault, Touring Cars (who could forget the Laguna dominance of Alain Menu in 1997) and Sportscars where they won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1978 with Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud bringing home the Renault Alpine A442B, ahead of the dominant Porsche’s of the time.
Those competition entries aside it is Formula One and more recently Formula E where Renault have concentrated, be it they are now transitioning away from the latter for next season.
Renault have been associated with Formula One as both a constructor and engine supplier since 1977, having secured two constructors’ championships in 2005 and 2006. They entered F1 as Equipe Renault Elf from 1977 to 1985 as a constructor. As an engine supplier they worked with teams such as Lotus (in various guises and names), Ligier, Tyrrell, Williams, Benetton, Red Bull, Caterham and Toro Rosso. It has recently been announced that they will now supply McLaren for the first time.
This brings us nicely up to date with their involvement in Formula E, their return to Formula One and what does the future hold for the French manufacturer.
Renault have won all three team titles since the inception of Formula E, the first two drivers championships were won with Renault engines and the dominance of the team in this new era of motor racing seemed set to carry on for some time to come. Then came the announcement that as a ‘constructor’ Renault would be leaving Formula E to make way for Nissan, who are part of the same motorsport group with Renault owning around 45% of Nissan. It is e.dams who own the Formula E entry and so Renault would transition over to Nissan for 2018.
A very good question, when you are a front runner in your series. The very simple answer which stares back is – Formula One.
In this era of hybrid technology and electric cars the script was written and the stage was set for Renault to coin a Star Trek quote, ‘boldly go where…..’ and send motorsport into a new time with a new series. Formula One is to take a back seat now, said some, it won’t be at the forefront of their plans, said others. Renault is saying something completely different.
That is the thing with Renault, they take chances, they take risks and they don’t mind the competition. Renault does what Renault wants to do and I for one applaud that adventurous bravery.
It would be easy for Renault to come back into Formula One, as they did in 2016, bumble along and put their brand name out there. They have made some brave decisions which they are not afraid to stand by. What is brave about it? I here you ask.
Renault having supplied competitors Red Bull and Toro Rosso will now supply McLaren, yes not the force in recent years which it had been but a sleeping giant ready to wake up and claim back some pride and honour. For Renault to let a team like McLaren, who could potentially be better than them and also have Red Bull scampering off into the distance and challenging for titles, that is brave.
Would another engine supplier, for instance, Mercedes or Ferrari, be extremely happy with say Force India, Williams or Haas beating them or even challenging them during the course of the season? Of course they wouldn’t, the technology shared would be pulled back. Renault has intimated that with McLaren this won’t be the case.
McLaren have also said that they are interested in a return to sportscar racing, which seeing the length of deal they have signed with Renault and the potential that they could have a better power unit than recently used to could be a possibility that a McLaren with a Renault engine could once again roar at the big sportscar races.
The decision for Renault to move away from Formula E to concentrate and put its resources into Formula One shows in which direction this factory is heading. To supply engines to competitors, not afraid if they are beaten or challenged shows the bravery of this factory.
Will Renault be challenging for titles and race wins in Formula One? I personally can’t see it over the next couple of years. Will a team with a Renault engine be challenging for titles and race wins in Formula One?
Now that is a very good question.
Renault is truly back. Renault isn’t afraid. Renault could possibly, without realising it just yet, change the face of Formula One over the next few years.
Or maybe they do realise it and this is all just a cunning plan.
Just remember, Mercedes returned to Formula One in 2010 and it took them four years to win a Constructors’ Championship. Renault could be on the verge of something similar.