Briton Jolyon Palmer and Dane Kevin Magnussen will be the team’s two permanent drivers. Palmer romped to 2014’s GP2 title and is the son of ex-F1 racer Jonathan Palmer – the owner of the MSV group of circuits in the UK which includes Brands Hatch.
Magnussen raced for the McLaren team in F1 in 2014 and is also a former Renault racing champion having won the Formula Renault 3.5 Series crown in 2013.
Renault’s new car has been named the R.S. 16 and its build and preparation will take place at Enstone in Oxfordshire which was the team’s base until its previous time in F1 ceased in 2010.
Development of the team’s power units will be undertaken at Viry-Châtillon, Paris which has historically been Renault’s base for its F1 engines. Indeed it will be fascinating to see if Renault can close the gap to the front of the F1 grid with its 2016-spec power unit in its own car.
Senior appointments in Renault’s F1 team include Chief Technical Officer Bob Bell, Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester, Technical Director Rémi Taffin. Chester will be based at Enstone and Taffin (power unit) at Viry with Bell overseeing the combined efforts of both facilities.
With F1’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix looming (20 March), Bell is very clear on the Renault team’s targets. He said: “If you look at the team’s history and also the development of F1 in general, in the V8 and further back in the V10 generation, it was possible to have a more arms-length relationship between the engine and chassis side of a team, whereas now to be successful you need far more integration with the more complex power units and the evolution brought by the intensity of competition.
“This integration is not just measured in track performance – it’s measured by how you optimise the resources available. It’s not an exercise in winning at all costs; it’s an exercise in winning in a controlled manner. With two locations we can look for economies of scale to ensure we’re getting the maximum and find operational efficiencies. We need to be much more integrated and less disparate than before.”
For Palmer, aged 25, there is clearly huge excitement at being given his F1 break. When asked what it felt like being announced as a factory Renault F1 driver he replied: “It sounds great! I can’t wait to get started! It’s been a long winter but a really useful one for getting prepared. I’ve been in Enstone a lot and training really hard. Later this month I’ll be back in the car in Barcelona; I couldn’t be more ready.”
Magnussen is also determined to make a mark on the sport after not being able to race in 2015. The 23-year-old said: “Hopefully I’ll prove many points. I’m extremely motivated after a whole year away. I’ve been sitting on the sideline during the races for so many weekends and I’m hungry to come back and prove my worth. I’ve raced my whole life and I’m extremely hungry and keen to get in a race car again and even more so with Renault Sport!”