This was where it all started as Renault entered its first grand prix (Silverstone) with its own team and car, the R.S 0.1, driven by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jabouille. But there’s a lot more to it than that…
Significantly the R.S 0.1 was the first car to race in F1 using a turbo-charged engine. It was cutely nicknamed ‘Yellow Teapot’ thanks to its propensity for retiring in a cloud of steam and smoke as the turbo technology was fine-tuned. Two years later, though, Renault and Jabouille achieved a breakthrough victory in, of all races, the French Grand Prix at Dijon.
The rest duly took note and by 1983 the majority of the top teams on the grid had all ‘gone turbo’. As technology advanced horsepower levels broke through the 100bhp mark – thanks to this spectacle, 1984-87 in particular will forever be regarded as a golden age in F1 history. All thanks to Renault’s pioneering technology in 1977…
A bitter-sweet victory for Renault… The sweet bit was drivers Rene Arnoux and Alain Prost finishing a dominant 1-2 on home ground at the Paul Ricard circuit in picturesque Provence. The bitter bit was Arnoux disobeying team orders to let Prost through in the closing stages. By that stage in the season Prost had a better chance of winning the title but imagine Arnoux’s plight – 20 seconds up the road and being asked to give up victory in his home grand prix.
South Africa 1983
Renault and Prost headed into the final round of the season, at the swooping Kyalami circuit, leading on points thanks to four earlier victories. But Brabham and Nelson Piquet, using BMW engines, had been closing fast with a winning streak of their own. Agonisingly, Prost retired from the race while Piquet took third – enough to steal the title by just two points…
After 17 years away, Renault had returned to F1 in 2002 and by 2004 Fernando Alonso had emerged as its new superstar driver. This, though, was to be Italian team-mate Jarno Trulli’s day of days… Trulli was viewed by many as a ‘qualifying specialist’ and promptly put it on pole position which will do just fine at Monaco – a circuit on which overtaking is close to impossible. From there he pretty much led all the way for the only grand prix victory of his F1 career.
Close to 30 years after its F1 adventure first began Renault finally clinched the F1 drivers’ title as third place for Alonso on the Interlagos track was enough to give him an unassailable lead with two races still to go. He had already taken six wins by then in Renault’s superb R25 racer and, in the season finale in China, added a seventh – a result that helped clinch the constructors’ crown for Renault.
Alonso and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher went into the race tying for the championship lead. Alonso took the win, his seventh of the year in his Renault R26, while Schumacher retired. It meant Alonso needed just one point in Brazil two weeks later to become Champion. Second place therefore was more than enough for him to clinch back-to-back titles. Similarly Renault lifted a second successive constructors’ crown.
All photos © Renault Sport. Not to be re-produced unless with strict permission.