Renault Sport was the big mover in F1 this year, the French manufacturer up three places in the constructors’ standings. It was a big step up for the marque on the second year of its works return – having re-purchased the cash-strapped Lotus team late in 2015.
In taking its squad back to the top, Renault had worked hard to reintegrate its race team, in Enstone, England with its power unit headquarters in Viry-Châtillon, near Paris in France.
An important step, with the headcount growing from 475 to 670 at the end of 2017 – part of its ambitious strategy to become a top team by 2020.
SOUNDBITE (English) JÉRÔME STOLL,
PRESIDENT, RENAULT SPORT RACING:
“Recruitment, more than 25 per cent of new employees at Viry and at Enstone. Investment, everybody can see this investment, new building, new equipment - and this demonstrate very clearly that our decision are completely aligned with our ambition to become, within a short period of time, champion.”
Technically, the new RS17 was a true collaboration between Enstone and Viry, its power unit carrying over just 5 per cent of the parts from 2016.
SOUNDBITE (English) REMI TAFFIN,
ENGINE TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, RENAULT:
“We just, not change everything, but quite a lot of the parts and we try to look at all the areas - not only trying to put some more power out of the engine.”
The team also had an exciting new driver line-up, Nico Hülkenberg joining Jolyon Palmer – but the Brit wasn’t to last.
Hülkenberg scored points at six of the first 12 races, including the last race in Abu Dhabi. Palmer took until Singapore for his first and only points. He was replaced from the USA onwards by Carlos Sainz, who scored on debut.
Sainz is retained for 2018, on loan from Red Bull – and with Hülkenberg, makes for one of the sport’s most formidable pairings.
While expected gains on power unit and chassis, through stable technical regulations, should ensure Renault is next year’s dark horse.
The brand celebrated four decades in F1 this year in Monaco, where it re-united former drivers Jean-Pierre Jabouille with the 1977 RS01, Renault’s first F1 car, and Alain Prost with 1983’s RE40, its first car with a carbon fibre chassis.
And with all the ingredients in place for next year, Renault’s F1 future looks every bit as exciting as its fabulous past.