Ironically the first Australian GP contested by Renault also proved to be the last for its team the first time round in F1. This was the season finale of 1985 and also the last GP to be held on the really great Adelaide street circuit.
Unfortunately it does not yield great memories for Renault – its car that year, the RE15, was not its finest and drivers Patrick Tambay and Derek Warwick both retired. It was a sad end to Renault’s first period in F1 which had lasted since 1977…
It would not be until 2002 when Renault returned as a squad to F1 that it would next compete in Oz – on the newer Melbourne circuit which is used today. Then as now, as the opening race of the season, it marked Renault’s reappearance in the sport. However it took until 2005 before a podium result in Australia was achieved when Fernando Alonso finished in third. A year later victory at last was Renault’s with Giancarlo Fisichella taking the spoils. Twelve months on that became it back-to-back victories in the race, this time with Alonso who, at this stage, was already on his way to a second successive drivers’ crown with Renault.
There would be two more podium results in Australia for Renault before it called time on its second appearance in F1 – Robert Kubica took a fine second in 2010 and Russian Vitaly Petrov was shock third in 2011’s race.
Melbourne’s 5.3km street circuit which runs clockwise through parkland and around a lake consists of 16 turns (many of them slow to medium speed) and is virtually flat.
The race often throws up a surprise or two – despite all the miles of pre-season testing, not all teams are necessarily as well prepared as they would like so it’s an opportunity for newer teams and drivers to take advantage steal an unlikely result. What chance a podium result for Renault on its return?
Unpredictability is something all fans love. One thing that’s not so easy to agree with is the time – being on the other side of the world, Australia’s race means no Sunday lie-in for those in Europe who want to watch it live. The time to set your alarm clocks for this Sunday is 4.00am if you want the big race built-up on Sky F1 or 4.50am if you want to time it just right before the 5.00am start (that’s 4.00pm Melbourne time).
A fortnight later Renault’s new F1 adventure moves to the Middle East and the Bahrain GP (Sun 3 Apr). At least fans will have an easier ride of it with the race scheduled to start at 4.00pm UK time – while Sky will, as ever, be showing all the action as it happens this will also be the first race being shown live by Channel 4 as part of its new F1 broadcast deal.
Out of eight races contested on its 5.4km desert circuit – which includes a mammoth 1km pit straight – Renault has won twice, in 2005 and 2006 with Alonso.