Sunday, May 15, 2011

Renault F1

The Renault Formula One team, currently trading as Lotus Renault GP, is a Formula One racing team. It has competed in various forms since 1977, winning Constructors' and Drivers' titles in 2005 and 2006. Renault had some involvement in early motorsport, including Ferenc Szisz winning the first French Grand Prix. However, it was not until 1977 that the company entered Formula One as a constructor, introducing the turbo engine to Formula One in their first car, the Renault RS01. Although the Renault team won races and competed for world titles, it withdrew at the end of 1985. Renault returned to Formula One as a team in 2002 when it completed its takeover and rebranding of the UK-based team previously known as Benetton (and before that, Toleman). Under the Renault F1 Team guise the team won the Drivers' and Constructors' championships in 2005 and 2006. At the end of 2009, the Renault car company sold a 75% stake in the team to the Genii Capital investment company. At the end of 2010, it sold its remaining 25% share to Genii, which then decided to enter into an alignment with Group Lotus. The team competes in the 2011 season under the name Lotus Renault GP. The team continues to be coordinated from its UK base at Enstone, Oxfordshire where the chassis are designed and built. Engines are manufactured at Renault's facility at Viry-Châtillon near Paris. Renault has also supplied engines to other teams, including Team Lotus (1980s), Benetton and Williams teams in the 1990s. As an engine supplier, Renault has contributed to six driver's world championships (1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2010 won by Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Sebastian Vettel respectively) and seven constructor's world championships (1992–1997 and 2010) as engine supplier for Benetton, Williams and Red Bull. The engine supply has continued during periods when Renault was not active as a constructor in its own right.

Renault F1 Engine

From 1983 to 1986, Renault became engine supplier to Team Lotus with its iconic John Player Special livery. Though not competitive initially, with the recruitment of genius designer Gérard Ducarouge the marquee gained competitiveness towards the later part of the 1983 season into 1984, with Nigel Mansell and Elio De Angelis scoring regular podiums. Rising superstar Ayrton Senna joined Team Lotus in 1985 and the combination of his immense speed, talent and the superfast, but thirsty Lotus 97T notched up numerous pole positions and grand prix wins, but chronic unreliability prevented a sustained attempt at either title. In 1986, aristocrat Johnny Dumfries was chosen to be Senna's new partner after Senna vetoed the original choice of Derek Warwick. More pole positions and occasional wins followed with the Lotus 98T but the tallies could have been improved further with better reliability or fuel consumption lasting the full race duration. In the four seasons between 1983 to 1986, Team Lotus with Renault engines scored 19 pole positions and 5 Grand Prix victories. This period helped to launch Ayrton Senna to superstardom. Renault Sport pulled out completely from Formula One after the 1986 season but for only a brief sabbatical until they renewed their involvement in 1989, when they became an engine supplier to Williams and by the sixth round in Canada, the team had already secured their first Renault powered victory. Renault had also pioneered the first pneumatic valved V10 engine in F1. Williams enjoyed signs of promise for the next 2 years and by 1992, with the aid of active suspension, the Williams-Renault was a World Championship-winning car, winning over half of the races during the season. Renault pulled out of Formula One at the end of 1997, coinciding with the departure of Adrian Newey, the head of Williams' design team, who had designed all of the Renault powered Williams' from 1992 onwards. However, the power unit was still bought by teams 'off the shelf' for several years afterwards by Benetton (where the engine was re-badged as Playlife), Williams (where it was re-badged as Mecachrome) and BAR and Arrows (where it was re-badged as Supertec). On September 15, 2006, Renault announced that it had agreed to supply Red Bull Racing with engines in 2007 and 2008. On November 1, 2006, Red Bull Racing confirmed the use of Renault engines and the transfer of the Ferrari units to Scuderia Toro Rosso. On 5 November 2010, Lotus Racing announced that they would use Renault engines for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

During the 2009 season, the actions of Renault F1 during the 2008 season were examined over alleged race fixing. The issue surrounded Nelson Piquet, Jr.'s crash during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix which Renault team mate Fernando Alonso went on to win. At the time, Piquet, Jr. had characterised the incident as a simple mistake. After Piquet, Jr. left the Renault team in August 2009, allegations surfaced that this crash had been deliberate, to give an advantage to Alonso. Following an Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) investigation in which Piquet, Jr. stated he had been asked by Renault team principal Flavio Briatore and engineer Pat Symonds to stage the crash, on 4 September 2009 Renault were charged with conspiracy and race fixing, and were due to face the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 21 September 2009. Initially, Renault and Briatore stated they would take legal action against Piquet, Jr. for making false allegations, however, before the 21 September meeting, Renault announced they would not contest the charges, and that Briatore and Symonds had left the team. Briatore contested his ban in a French court, which then overturned the ban so Briatore can be involved in any FIA-sanctioned motorsport.In the mid 2000s, questions were raised regarding Renault's commitment to its Formula One team, particularly after the appointment of Carlos Ghosn as CEO in 2005. Ghosn has a reputation as a ruthless businessman, nicknamed "le cost cutter". Ghosn has time and again confirmed his belief in Formula 1, both as an advertising vehicle and a substantial technology investment. At the 2005 French Grand Prix, Ghosn set out his policy regarding the company's involvement in motorsport: "We are not in Formula One out of habit or tradition. We're here to show our talent and that we can do it properly... Formula One is a cost if you don't get the results. Formula One is an investment if you do have them and know how to exploit them." After Renault won both championships in 2006 for a second year, Ghosn said "It is an important victory because it justifies the investment Renault has made in Formula 1, and will make in the future. More and more, Formula 1 is working as an investment for us, not a loss.". In May 2008, two years since Renault F1 dominated the sport, and amidst a relatively weak season for the team, Ghosn again stated that irrespectively of results, Renault would stay in F1 for 'many years'. Renault have signed an agreement with Formula One Management pledging its allegiance to Formula 1 until 2012.

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