Renault’s arrival in F1 at the Northamptonshire circuit four decades ago generated terrific interest – not only was this a major motor manufacturer entering the scene but it was doing so with turbo technology, something no one had ever dared try.
Predictably the car, Renault’s fabled RS01 driven by Jean-Pierre Jabouille, failed to finish the race when its turbo blew and it came limping into the pit lane in a cloud of smoke.
This was not to be an uncommon sight during its earliest outings and the nickname ‘Yellow Teapot’ was quick to stick. Undeterred however, Renault pressed on with development of its pioneering technology and when Silverstone next hosted the British GP, in 1979, Renault arrived off the back of its first win in F1, in the French GP at Dijon courtesy of Jabouille in RS10…
At Silverstone Jabouille and team-mate Rene Arnoux ran towards the front and the opposition now was starting to realise that turbocharging was perhaps the way forward. As ‘turbo lag’ – the wait for the power to come in – was steadily eradicated, so the cars became more driveable on all types of circuit while of course delivering considerably more grunt.
In 1981 at Silverstone Alain Prost and Arnoux qualified their Renault RE30s 1-2 on the grid – they were close to six seconds under the lap record from ’79! – and ran in that order for much of the race until both struck problems. So to 1983 and finally Renault got its first win at Silverstone, as Prost fought off the Brabhams and Ferraris for one of four victories with the team’s RE40 model in which he came agonisingly close to that year’s title.
Notably pretty much of all the front-running teams had now copied Renault and gone the turbo route and this remained the case through to the end of 1988 when the technology was outlawed (until finally making a return in 2014). Certainly the period 1981-88, known as ‘The Turbo Years’, will forever be regarded as one of F1’s golden eras. And all thanks to Renault’s visionary approach to the sport back in ’77…
Incredibly 2017 also marks 25 years – yes a quarter of a century – since Nigel Mansell’s win at Silverstone in one of the most remarkable F1 cars of all time: the Williams FW14B powered by powered by Renault’s 3.5 V10 RS4 engine – a win that put him on the verge of his first world crown.
More Renault wins have since followed at Silverstone with Alain Prost (Williams, 1993), Damon Hill (Williams, 1994), Johnny Herbert (Benetton, 1995), Jacques Villeneuve (Williams, 1996 & 1997), Fernando Alonso (Renault R26, 2006), Sebastien Vettel (Red Bull, 2009) and Mark Webber (Red Bull, 2010 and 2012).
And so on to Silverstone this weekend for what is likely to be a very moving occasion for Renault Sport Racing and its many fans. To celebrate it a special ‘Yellow Teapot’ – yes, a real one but limited to just 40 – has been created.
CLICK HERE for a short film about it.