Renault’s F1 history in pictures, 1977-2015

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Renault has been part of Formula One for almost two decades, winning races and championships as a team and as an engine supplier to F1’s most famous names.

Yesterday Renault announced it will return to F1 as a full constructor in 2016. Take a tour of its past glories below.

1977-1986: The turbo era

Start, Paul Ricard, 1983
Start, Paul Ricard, 1983

With a single turbo-engined car for Jean-Pierre Jabouille at the 1977 British Grand Prix, Renault set out to revolutionise the Formula One world. They had to be patient – the first win took two years to arrive – but soon afterwards it became clear that Renault’s choice of a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine in place of the three-litre conventional units used by the rest was the way to go.

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However Renault found it difficult to make the technology reliable, and potential championships were lost in the early eighties due to frequent breakdowns. They came closest in 1983, when Alain Prost won four times, but was pipped in the finale by Nelson Piquet.

Renault’s works team failed to win another race over the following years and withdrew, but it enjoyed success as an engine supplier to Lotus, and other teams also used its power units into 1986. But there was no championship silverware.

1989-1997: Engine champions

Williams and Benetton, Jerez, 1997
Williams and Benetton, Jerez, 1997

Ironically having ushered in F1’s turbo era Renault weren’t around for its final years – but hurried back to F1 as an engine once a new normally-aspirated formula was chosen for 1989. Williams enjoyed exclusive use of their engines at first and won races from the off, but it wasn’t until the team combined the powerful and reliable French engines with devastatingly effective aerodynamics that they began to enjoy sustained success.

Williams-Renault dominated in 1992 and 1993, and carried on winning championships until 1997. But in 1995 Renault began an alliance with the team it has maintained a close relationship with since: the Enstone-based Benetton squad.

2002-2009: Constructors’ champions

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, 2006
Fernando Alonso, Renault, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, 2006

Renault called time on its spell as an engine constructor in 1997. But in 2002 it returned with the intention of finally achieving the championship success which had eluded it as a full constructor.

Benetton was rebranded as Renault, and one year later Fernando Alonso delivered the team’s first win as a full constructor in two decades. In 2005 the team’s R25 blended power, reliability and efficient aerodynamics brilliantly, giving Alonso a platform to clinch the title.

Twelve months later, despite an enforced switch from V10 to V8 engines and a sustained year-long challenge from Ferrari and Michael Schumacher, Alonso was victorious again, and the team also secured back-to-back constructors’ titles.

From there things went downhill swiftly. Alonso was lost to McLaren and the team struggled with Bridgestone rubber after tyre supplier Michelin departed. The team endured a win-less 2007 but Alonso’s return the following year promised to put that right. It did – but the team was later revealed to have engineered Alonso’s 2008 Singapore Grand Prix victory by instructing his team mate Nelson Piquet Jnr to crash and bring out the Safety Car.

2010-2015: The Red Bull era

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2011
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2011

While Renault quiet wound down its factory operation, which became Lotus, engine customers Red Bull was putting its product to increasingly good effect. As with Williams in the early nineties, the combination of Renault power and Adrian Newey aerodynamics proved a potent combination.

Sebastian Vettel won what turned out to be the first of four consecutive drivers’ championships in 2010, and Red Bull-Renault grabbed the team’s titles as well. But when Renault announced its return to F1 yesterday it made it plain that it did not feel it had received due credit for its share in the teams’ successes.

“The payback as an engine supplier proved to be limited,” it noted. “The return on the investment necessitated by the new engine regulations and the return in terms of image were low.”

“As a full team, Renault will take maximum benefit from its victories.”

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 22 comments on “Renault’s F1 history in pictures, 1977-2015”

    1. Anybody else feel that Herbert in ’95 looks a tad like Schumacher?

      1. I can’t see a Herbert… :S

        1. It was a mistake and has been corrected. Kudos to Keith for the speedy fix!

    2. ILuvSoundtracks (@)
      4th December 2015, 14:24

      I love the picture on this article’s thumbnail.

    3. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      4th December 2015, 15:34

      I know I could do the counting… but feeling lazy right now :P

      How many champions have driven with Renault engines? Not necessarily that they won championships with them:
      Mansell, Prost, Senna, Button, Hill, Villeneuve, Vettel, Alonso. Am I missing somebody?

      1. Jenson Button

        1. nevermind! i need to read correctly

      2. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
        4th December 2015, 19:30

        Schum had Benneton Renault in 1995 right?

        1. Yes, Benetton used the Renault V10 in 1995.

      3. Raikkonen. It’s only 2 years since Kimi was winning races with a Renault engine.

    4. Thanks Keith for this article. That was a trip down memory lane :)

      I do feel like that when scrolling downward, the liveries for the cars get progressively more and more visually cluttered and less aesthetically pleasing. It would be fun if Renault opted to try a livery on next year’s car like 1983 or 1985 to see how good it looks on a modern day car.

      1. The 2005 Renault R25 was, in my opinion, one of the best looking F1 cars of all time. Definitely the best looking in the 2000-08 era!

        1. @thrillerwa09 Not as nice as the 2010 car to me eye. But better than most of the current grid.

          1. The R25 was excellent from the 00-08 era, but I agree with you the R30 was the best looking car in the 09-13 era. I blogged about it once!

          2. @keithcollantine @thrillerwa09 I think the R30 is an example of a car that would have looked great if only it had a decent livery (the bumblebee look didn’t do it for me) – not unlike the 2011 Toro Rosso STR6. If you want an example of a great looking 09-13 car, then I would argue the case for the MP4-27; especially before they did a nose-job for the Spanish GP.

            1. Yes, the MP4-27 was beautiful (I have a poster of it at home!)

              I love the R30 because it is so bold. It looks aggressive, like a wasp. It isn’t drab and dictated by sponsors (*COUGH* Red Bull Racing) or lame aesthetic designers (*COUGH* Sauber)

    5. I must say, Renault’s return as a works team is a real victory for F1. It’s not as if exiting F1 wasn’t a viable option for Renault: given its successful Formula E team, rumours surrounding the Renaultsport R.S. 01 being converted into a factory-supported LM-GTE car, and with Citroen’s exit heralding an excellent opportunity to build a WRC car, Renault didn’t need F1 to have a motorsports presence. However instead of exiting the sport with its tail between its legs, and with a fracas with its former dream team partner as its parting legacy, Ghosn and his shareholders have chosen to attempt to redress the form of the past two years. I respect that, and consider it a shining endorsement of the F1 commercial platform.

      Without this decision, F1 might not only have said goodbye a manufacturer, but would have handed down a death sentence to the team AUTOSPORT described in 2013 as “pound-for-pound the best team in F1”. After a season that has at times felt like a seemingly relentless torrent of negativity, this is terrific news for our sport.

    6. We need Espace F1 in modern racing sims..!

      1. I remember it been in one of the old Gran Turismo games on the original Playstation.

    7. With all the complaining about the recent low noses, the shots from the early 1990’s Williams just reminds me of how much better low noses look on a race car.

      Those early 1990’s low nose cars were the best looking F1 cars in my opinion. i hated the higher noses & most of the cars from the 2000’s with all those stupid flaps, flickups, horns etc.. thought all that nonsense looked real ugly!

    8. Great photos there – but my favorite Renault – the 1984 version was not included!

    9. I wonder if the big mouths at Red Bull thought the brilliant history of Renault in F1 (and several other forms of competition) started and ended with the few, mostly dominant, years with Red Bull.
      More than a few will be hoping that the 2016 Renault F1 Works Team can push Team Bull down the order.
      Bon Chance Renault!

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