How the West was F1
Austin 2014
US Grand Prix
A personal review of the F1 year – Renault
News
A personal review of the F1 year – Renault
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Jan 2011   |  11:33 am GMT  |  50 comments

Renault F1 team, 0 wins, 3 podiums, 0 poles, 5th in Constructors’ championship

I found the Renault team very interesting to study this year on several levels. Organisationally, the team had new ownership in the shape of tech investor Gerard Lopez and his Genii company. It retained some participation from the Renault car company, but that ended after the season finished as Genii bought out Renault’s 25% stake. The intention is to sell between 25% and 40% of the company to Group Lotus, which also becomes title sponsor for the next three years. Lopez has all sorts of innovative ideas of how to use the F1 team as a platform and the Lotus deal clearly has a lot more to do with a wider business play. Since 2009 this team has moved in two phases from being a manufacturer team to an independent. The problem now will be one of positioning over the use of the Lotus name, with Tony Fernandes already running Team Lotus.


Operationally, the team was led by Eric Boullier, who seems a disciplined, clear sighted manager. James Allison took over as engineering guru from his mentor Pat Symonds, while the old firm of Alan Permane and Rod Nelson decided how they go racing. It’s a very experienced line up of guys, now in their 40s, who were the juniors when Benetton was winning in the 1990s and now they are in charge.

The team had a new lead driver in Robert Kubica and he took up where Fernando Alonso left off; he’s fast, consistent, makes few mistakes, is strong in races and provides good leadership from the cockpit. He was paired with Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov. Initially Kubica wasn’t too happy about not having an experienced driver alongside him during a time when testing is banned as it inevitably slows development. Also Petrov was unable to hit the target of 50% of the lead driver’s points. But the Russian did contribute to the story of the season and his presence encourages Russian interest in the sport which is a price worth paying in my view.

Kubica did a brilliant job, with some stunning drives like the podiums in Australia and Monaco. After a difficult final year with BMW in 2009, he restored his reputation and most F1 insiders and fans would like to see what he would do if given a race winning car. So far most of his career has been lived outside of the pressure of a season-long title fight. I’d love to see how Kubica handles real high stakes pressure; I suspect very well


Technically the team produced an okay car, which wasn’t generally quite as fast as the Mercedes, albeit was occasionally faster on certain circuits, probably due to Kubica making the difference.

I was blown away by the array of new front wings coming out of Enstone; it seemed like there was a new one virtually every race. They were beautiful, cascading creations, illustrating that the self confidence of the aero department was coming back after a tough time under old boss Flavio Briatore. And although it took them a while to get an F Duct on the car it worked brilliantly first time out in Spa.

Where will Renault be in 2011? Mercedes are expected to get into the fight with McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari. Can Renault make that step too? It means finding about 7/10ths more than the Red Bull designers find. With new rules on rear wings and diffusers anything’s possible.

Featured News
MORE FROM JA ON F1...
Share This:
Posted by:
Category:
50 Comments
  1. Ryan Eckford says:

    2010 was a fairly good year for Renault considering all the troubles on and off the circuit the year before.

    The categories that I measured the 2010 cars in include:
    Car Driveability, All Round Car Ability, Low Downforce Circuits, Medium Downforce Circuits, High Downforce Circuits, High Speed Circuits, Medium Speed Circuits and Low Speed Circuits.

    The categories in order of strength for the R30 are:
    1. Car Driveability(2nd)
    2. Medium Downforce Circuits(4th)
    3. All Round Car Ability(5th)
    4. Low Speed Circuits(5th)
    5. High Speed Circuits(5th)
    6. Medium Speed Circuits(5th)
    7. High Downforce Circuits(5th)
    8. Low Downforce Circuits(6th)

    Kubica had a great season for Renault in 2010 always extracting the best from his car and putting the R30 in places where it did not deserve to be. Being able to do this shows the potential to become one of the all-time greats. If their is one driver who deserves to win the World Championship it would be Kubica. If he can get into some good cars, he has the potential, the work ethic and the talent to win I say at least 2-3 World Championships. Petrov didn’t have a good year, but had a couple of note-worthy performances to hang on to his seat for 2011. Overall, Renault had a good, promising year and I am sure they will move up the grid into the Top 3 in 2011.

    1. Galapago555 says:

      Ryan, how can you asses the car driveability, especially when compared to other teams’?

      1. Richard Bell says:

        He must have taken it for a drive

      2. Ryan Eckford says:

        For Car Driveability, I had a look at all the results at Monaco, Belgium and Japan. At these circuits, it is crucial to have a good balanced, well-handling car which a very good driver can extract to the maximum to make up any deficiencies the car may have. Renault’s talked about in pre-season testing for 2010 making the car easy to drive so it would be much easier to extract the car’s full potential, especially at these three circuits. Renault did this better than any other team except Red Bull.

      3. Galapago555 says:

        It’s hard to compare with the Ferraris: Alonso made his famous mistake on P3 in Monaco and he did not qualify (and he finished 6th after starting 24th, so I assume that his car was pretty “driveable”); in Belgium hedecided a totally wrong car set up, expecting a full wet race, wich made the car too slow, and besides he was crashed by Rubinho on the very first lap when he was improving his position.

        So IMO it’s hard to compare. Anyway, I do appreciate the way you make your assesment for this item.

      4. Jack says:

        sorry mate but this seems like a total nonsense to me. There’s absolutely no way you can make any sort of scientific judgements on any of the cars based on a tiny bit of information like that, especially with all the other variables that go into the final result

    2. Jack Semmence says:

      yeah what’s this based on?

      1. Fausto Cunha says:

        I often listen comments of the Driveability of the Renault engine, I think M Brundle said it many times refering it to the Renault strenghts and also Red Bull´s.

        But comparing it to the other´s teams that´s a dificult thing.

  2. Adam says:

    I feel I should disagree with the “0 poles” statement :) 1 Pole, 1 Russian

    1. Mario says:

      Yup! Definitely 1 Pole.

    2. Jack Semmence says:

      i knew i wasn’t the 1st person to make that joke in my head. damn!

  3. Yeah, yeah, well, I think last season was their best since 2006 despite no wins or pole positions. The morale was good at least; RK’s a great bloke while Petrov is bound to do better next year.

    Hopefully, they’ll bring limited in-season testing back to help less experienced drivers get to grips with the equipment. That’s what F1′s beautiful people were talking about during that famous Fan Forum in London last summer (was it?). I seem to recall Ferrari’s Luca C. was of the opinion that crowds in the grandstands would feel ‘appy about attending a few testing sessions during the season. I’d be ‘appy for sure. Wonder what happened to that idea…

  4. jonrob says:

    “They were beautiful, cascading creations, illustrating that the self confidence of the aero department was coming back after a tough time under old boss Flavio Briatore. ”

    Did Flav put a bit of a damper (pardon the mass pun) on aero then? Or did he have no confidence in the blokes?

    Will Petrov get back in for the season including the Russian GP?

    1. James Allen says:

      He cleared out many of the aero people

  5. Lilla My says:

    I think they did much better than many had expected before the season, especially considering the turbulence they came through. They probably would have scored even more points if not for some mistakes from the team (Hungary pit stop) and the drivers too (putting Petrov aside, even Kubica lost some valuable points because of his mistakes, e.g. pit stop in Spa).

    I’ve read recently that accoriding to Renault’s management, they’re planning to fight for a win(s?) in 2011 and to join the championship battle in 2012 (I don’t know if that’s true), so they seem to have it all planned for the nearest future with Kubica as one of the main ingredients of their possible success.

    This has nothing to do with the performance of the team, but I really like the new black and gold livery :).

    1. Dr Prozac says:

      Kubica lost only 3 points in Spa. What were his other mistakes? In Bahrain it wasn’t his fault.

      3 points compared to what other divers were loosing due to their mistakes is like nothing ;)

      Petrov lost a lot of points due to pushing too hard.

      Anyway a very good year for Renault. I hope that in 2011 they will be much closer the top.

      1. Lilla My says:

        I know! I just wanted to point out that he can make mistakes, though it seems unbelivable most of the time.
        I like him very much in fact, but I’m trying to make him look more human as in most cases he looks like this almost perfect robot programmed to drive without any mistakes.
        And as he’s a very good driver – I’d love to see him in a competitive car to make sure that he’s really that good and faultless (it’s one thing to drive in the midfield and another – in the front with all the pressure). I belive he is nevertheless. He deserves to be given the opportunity to fight at the front.

        I didn’t write about Petrov and his mistakes on purpose – I think it’s cruel to compare him to Kubica ;-).

  6. S.J.M says:

    I think it will be interesting to see if last season was a fluke or a step in the right direction for Renault (or Genii, if you like) after years in the wilderness.

    As you correctly say James, with Kubica onboards, they have a great chance of getting results, maybe Petrov will show more of the driving we saw at Abu Dahbi.

  7. Paul L says:

    I’d like to see Kubica in a top car, not because I’m on the bandwagon, but because I’d like to see if he really is top class.

    The respected Mark Hughes seems to smitten with his talent, even putting him in the top 5 drivers for 2009 – which seemed to me to be self-evidently absurd (and for me, puts another question mark over Hughes’ judgment at times).

    1. irish con says:

      i agree with u mate. im kubica’s biggest fan but to put him that high up last year was a joke. he based that solely on his p2 in brazil which was amazing but not a good enough season. also his top 10 in autosport this year was all wrong too.

    2. Lilla My says:

      Also agree regarding 2009 and the top car comment. Kubica is a great driver IMO, but he seems to fade away if something goes wrong. BMW was a dog of a car in 2009 and as they decided to leave F1, they didn’t seem to be really interested in leaving the sport with some positive results and so Kubica seemed to be quite down and not willing to fight. As if he didn’t care. In Renault, it’s quite different, I think. The car isn’t still the best, but at least it’s visible that the team wants to develop and is not giving up, thus Kubica, feeling the support, is also doing his best. I’m his fan (maybe not the biggest in the world, but I still like him a lot), but I thought his attitude in 2009 as the season progressed was a bit like the team’s – they all looked as if they were absent-minded from time to time.
      Nevertheless, I think he has everything it takes to be one of the best drivers, but it still needs to be proven. He’s faultless most probably, but no one knows if he’ll be like that in the championship fight rush or having a strong team mate. I belive he would be immune to any kind of pressure, but to be fair, it’s still an unknown. So I’d also love to see him in a top car proving that (whether) all this speculations about his racecraft and strenght are right.
      What’s more – the more drivers and teams fighting for the wins, the better :).

      1. Martin says:

        Hi Lilla,

        Mark Webber made a comment that the relative performance between Heidfeld and Kubica was significantly influenced by the tyres that came in for 2009. Kubica had an even greater weight distribution problem than Webber relative to their teammates.

        Also, according to Autocourse, the KERS system BMW developed made the sidepods large, and these large sidepods made front wing developments futile. The large sidepods apparently also made the diffuser less effective. That was fixed mid-season, but a lot of development time was lost.

        BMW had a plan for winning races and then championship success in 2009. It is a balance between realism and aspiration to provide motivation. Every team wants to be winning races, so it isn’t a surprising thing to say.

      2. Lilla My says:

        Thanks a lot as always for the comment about technical aspects :). I remember that back in 2008 BMW were planning to win (fight for) the championship in 2009, so they decided to devote more resources and time to the 2009 model and gave up the development of the 2008 one, which was a pitty because Kubica had a real chance to get a good result in 2008 (he was 4th in the end but could have been third at least). I remember their KERS turning out to be quite a distater, though they spent so much time on it. I know everybody wants to win, but 2009 BMW (once they realised that the car is bad, despite a good start in Australia, and then decided to leave the sport) seemed a team with not much will to fight. I guess it’s no wonder that the drivers looked the same way. So it’s good that Kubica found a team, he feels at home, which wants to build the team around him and is willing to give its best :).

    3. Dr Prozac says:

      How can you judge? BMW’s car was really bad that year, and it was designed for KERS, which Kubica wouldn’t even use.
      The drivers couldn’t really do any better. And Robert has been experimenting with the setups a lot trying to find some pace in that car.

      Such lists are subjective. And his list this year has been based on ratings after each race weekend AFAIK.

      1. Paul L says:

        He was outscored by Heidfeld.

  8. Rafael says:

    This team (whether it be in the guise of Toleman, Benetton or Renault – and now maybe “Lotus [B]“) has always had a solid foundation, both in terms of the quality and continuity of the people running it. It is no wonder then they are able to naturally settle into the slot of “best of the rest” if they’re not the “best of the best”. Based on history, I think in order for this team to achieve the latter, they occasionally need a refreshing bout inspirational leadership from time to time and a fresh(er) driver to come along with that, to serve as a catalyst.

    I agree that Flavio Briatore towards his later years (post Alonso in ’06 and also after Schumacher in ’96) didn’t make the smartest decisions (he shaved the aero dept. bec. he thought w/ the new ’09 rules restricting aero, that aspect wouldn’t be so important anymore); there is no denying however that Benetton/Renault has managed to achieve all those championships and is able to still consistently punch above its weight, because of his and Pat Symonds’ leadership throughout the years.

    So although Eric Bouillier (and to an extent, Gerard Lopez) did solid fine job this year; he shouldn’t go around poking fun at Flavio by calling him a “show off” (as he did in F1 Racing, even if the man is) and he also shouldn’t say Alonso (who recommended Kubica) is arrogant and pulled the team down; because w/ out those people (and Pat Symonds), Mr. Bouiller’s work in 2010 would have been much harder and his team wouldn’t have been as competitive as it was.

    1. Lilla My says:

      I also thought his comments about the people (Briatore, Symonds, Alonso) that gave the team the only titles it’s got, was somehow arrogant. I have no idea what was e.g. Alonso’s attitude in 2009, but I think it’s difficult for a driver to be super-motivated, when the car is bad and the team is falling apart. Maybe Alonso should have done better in 2009, but I remember Mr Bouiller blaming him and his attitude for lack of development and bad results, which is quite harsh – there are hundreds of other people working for a team and saying that the lack of results is only one person’s fault is a step too far IMO.

      I think they found the catalyst, as you call it, in the person of Kubica. I have no idea if he’s a good leader (I’m not so sure – he seems to me a sort of a Kimi kind of driver, only much more devoted to racing than the Kimi from his later period), but he feels at home there, and as James wrote once, they are building the team around him, so it should be fine, if they manage to put all the pieces into place ;-).

  9. Toti says:

    I rate Kubica very highly and would like to see him in a Williams next to Barrichello. I heard he only costs $4.5M that sounds very good value given how many points he would have scored in 2010.

    I do not like the fight with Group Lotus, not how they are fighting, it looks very personal and good business is anything but.

    Has Fernandes made a mistake in his 5 year plan. I suspect he thought 100% he was going to woo Proton and that is going to be the headache of 2011. Tony needs to cut the ties now if they depended on Proton.

    I also would not trust Gascoyne, Kovalainen (have I spelt that right?) and especially Trulli.

    Gascoyne moves on or is moved on too soon to take full responsibility for his work and trades too much on too long ago with Benetton. Look at other technical directors and how long they stay with good teams and have success.

    Kovalainen (?) was pasted at Mclaren and if you need to do a Redbull you need to replace him in about two years as he can not take you there.

    Trulli, a joke who thinks a race ends at quali or the first corner then tends to cruise like he is on the riviera.

    Lotus have a good base for the next two years if it were my team I would make team principal Pat Symonds and then find a proper set of drivers who actually race instead of do nothing but pretend they have reputations and save their over priced pay cheques.

    1. Zobra Wambleska says:

      I think maybe we missed a turn somewhere. Gascoyne, Kovi, and Trulli have nothing to do with the Renault. Has the Lotus name mixed us up already?

      1. Galapago555 says:

        LOL… three and counting!! :-D

  10. Darrren says:

    Give this team with the lotus 2 years before the money runs out.. Team lotus will be ahead by the end of the season

    1. jonrob says:

      I think the money will last 3 years including 2011. However, by then Bahar will have gone through the €1.5B that Proton are supposedly supplying to enable his 5 new cars/British Porsche program, leaving Group Lotus with even larger debts than it has at present and vulnerable to a £1 takeover bid from Tony. Or maybe the Renault engine manufacturing side will be more attractive to buy by then.

  11. John M says:

    I’m crossing my fingers for Kubica. I’ve been a fan since day one and hope he gets the machine to complement his obvious talent. Hopefully, the team has the budget to put a front-runner on the track. I’d hate to see Kubica spend his career in mid-field cars, never getting a realistic chance at a title.

    For Petrov, next year will be put up, or shut up. If his inconsistency continues he won’t be able to fall back on the rookie excuse any more. I don’t expect him to match, or beat, Kubica with any regularity. But, if Petrov wants to keep driving in F1, he’s going to have to show something next year. Of course, if he’s bringing enough money, I guess it won’t matter too much.

    1. irish con says:

      i wouldnt worry, its only a matter of time before kubica gets a car he deserves then we will really see whats what. he reminded me so much this year and 08 of alonso of 03 to 06

  12. CHRISK5 says:

    The 2010 season has/will prove to be a superb catalyst year for Renault as it rebranded the works team quite superbly.

    Plus negotitating numerous deals away from the track to expand the companies options for the future.

    LotusRenault GP 2011 onwards – Get ready for the time of your lives !!

  13. Rich C says:

    WAY off subject here, but I see the Dakar started today in Argentina.
    It was the ceremonial start so there was a bit of showboating.
    Robby Gordon made me laugh – he jumped his “Hummer” *over the start ramp and *through the gate at full throttle.

  14. Toby Bushby says:

    James, forgive my potential ignorance, but I thought Rod Nelson moved to Williams for 2008 or 2009 (?). Has he gone back to Renault, or have I got the wrong Renault engineer altogether?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes he has gone back to Renault

  15. Red5 says:

    Is KERs an option next season or will all the cars be running similar systems? Just wondered whether we could see some drivers at some circuits not using the device.

    Will the potential Lotus deal bring more money or technology to the team or is it just a name change?

    1. jonrob says:

      Yes it is allowed next season, and no not all the teams will have it and those that do will not all have the same system. But the minimum vehicle weight has been increased and a front/rear distribution has been introduced, so that non KERS teams do not have a weight advantage.

      A bit of a pity really since those not running KERS are generally the poorer teams at the rear of the grid who could have done with the slight advantage; it would also have given an interesting choice less weight vs more power.
      KERS is a misnomer really since the power is not actually “recovered” from the braking effort as was initially hoped and the name implies, but merely charged up from the engine “during” half the lap. It needs to progress to the 4 wheel drive/recovery proposal which was once in the regs for teams that accepted the €30M budget cap which was never accepted. (That did allow electrical assist drive on all four wheels and thus electrical recovery from shunting the windings as a brake, however massive currents or voltages are involved and I have previously suggested that supercooled windings may be necessary)

  16. jmv says:

    Great to see this team coming back and indeed many people I saw in 94 as mechanics are now sitting on the pitwall.. isn’t that a great story in itself. Shame that Symonds is not part of it anymore… though the crisis at the team and fresh wind gave empty seats at the pit wall to be filled.

    I wish that someone (critics, journalists, etc) would have come out stronger in stating that Petrov’s dismall performance really cost the team… he was not far of Piquet Jr.

    Had someone like Rosberg, Glock been running next to Kubica there would have been much points up for the grabs..

    I wonder to what extend the discussions with Kimi were serious. Kimi-Kubica would have been interesting to watch.

  17. Fil says:

    A great recovery season for Renault!
    It’s such a shame they’re flirting with danger by joining forces with a legally-wrangling Group Lotus though.
    That’s a real risk going forward when the team really needs to build on the stability that Genii has brought.

    Kubica has already suffered before in a team with little stability in ownership at BMW Sauber. He’s openly admitted in the past he wants a stable team with a secure future.
    I’m betting he’ll be fleeing the Renault/Group Lotus fiasco as soon as there’s an opening in another top team. If Ferrari don’t manage to pry Seb from Red Bull in 2012/13, I’d expect Kubica to be in red overalls.

    1. Mario says:

      I am thinking along the same lines. All Kubica wanted after the BMW disaster was stability and it looks like he is not going to get much of it. Hopefully my worries will remain worries only and this “team” in the making pulls it off.

      In the first place, however, they need to get Kubica develop craving for ice cream.

  18. Ben says:

    You say they need to find 7/10ths more than Red Bull, however with the loss of the double diffuser and the F-Duct the margin is probably going to be even bigger.

    At the start of 2009 Red Bull’s car was virtually as fast as the Brawn without a double diffuser – this suggests that they will have an even bigger development lead on all the teams without it.

    Renault arguably had the best F-Duct too, so the Red Bull advantage is likely to be even bigger.

  19. Jon Wide says:

    James,

    Would you make any connection between the ART Group Lotus deal and the Renault Genni Group Lotus deal?

    Can we expect Mr Bahar’s plans to involve the groups merging the in the near future?

    It seems logical the the GP2 and GP3 teams to link to F1. Also would the new Indycar engine regs lend themselves to F1? Lotus announced they will make an engine for Indycar, could it be used in F1?

    1. James Allen says:

      Definitely. Both involve Group Lotus investing in teams. With ART its’ GP2 and GP3 – a significant sponsorship spend. With F1 it’s sponsorship and buying equity in the Renault team. I don’t see the two things merging, particularly, but obviously there is a possibility to bring drivers through. THat said Nicolas Todt and Gravity Sports management, owned by Genii, are in competition with each other

    2. Rich C says:

      Pretty sure the IndyCar engines will be too big and allow too much diversity for F1.
      Last specs I saw were 2.4L normally aspirated with a *max of 6 cyl and running on ethanol, and no apparent restrictions on architechture. SO you could have a flat-4 up against a V6 and etc. That much variation leaves plenty of room to get it majorly wrong and F1 would never take *that chance!

  20. toleman fan says:

    James,

    The team seems to have a bit of confidence and momentum at the moment, but the big question mark (looking in from the outside) seems to me to be whether they’ve got the money to make any more progress.

    The RRA isn’t in force yet, and where it used to be the case that some teams were smarter, more creative and more effective in getting more from less, it seems like that’s less true now than I can remember anytime in the last 30 years. (Maybe my memory is playing tricks).

    Williams beat Force India? More money. But they didn’t beat Renault? Less money. STR slowest of the existing teams? Less money. Lotus beat Virgin, even in spite of the handicap of getting their licence much later (which made them look like underdogs even among the new teams)? More money. (Maybe Virgin were the underdogs in that fight after all). And so on…

    So, do you see any of the teams from 5th place backwards in the 2010 WCC being able to get in to the fight for podiums on anything like a regular basis in 2011, and if so, which? And will Lotus-Renault start going back down the grid now that Renault have closed their chequebook?

  21. Evelyn says:

    Kubica is the best driver and he will be world champion in this year i know that.

  22. Nando says:

    Industrial espionage involving Renault; who’d of thunk it?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12125864

LEAVE A COMMENT

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Top Tags
SEARCH News
JA ON F1 In association with...
Download the chequered flag podcast today
Download the chequered flag podcast today
Multi award winning Formula One photographer
Multi award winning Formula One photographer