Who would believe? Renault caused a few smiles when they entered Formula 1 in 1977. What did the mass producer do in the closed world of Formula 1? I must say that although the first sports model Renault was equipped with a revolutionary turbocharged engine, it was accompanied by a sad tradition of ending the race in clouds of smoke. As a result, the British gave her a very unkind nickname – Yellow Teapot.
Led by Jean-Pierre Zhabolier and René Arnue, the Renault team began to gain confidence. Technology improved and pilots became more confident. The first success came in 1978, when the team ranked fourth in the United States. In 1979, Zabolier won the French Grand Prix. Skeptics began to fall silent and carefully observe.
Alain Prost joined the Renault team in 1981. The future four-time world champion won three Grand Prix in France and brought Renault third place in the Cup of Designers. The following season, the team won four Grand Prix and strengthened its position, presenting the great technical and human achievements of Renault. At the end of 1986, after several successful seasons, Renault disbanded their team in order to focus on engine development. Recognized as an innovator and pioneer, Renault became the official engine manufacturer for other teams. Fruitful collaboration with the Lotus team, led by Ayrton Senna, paved the way. Between 1989 and 1997, Renault supplied engines for the Williams team, and then for Benetton. With their V10 engine, Renault wrote a new page in the history of Formula 1 racing. It was a strategy that clearly paid off, since Renault was recognized as the best engine manufacturer of the 1990s. The V10 engine eventually got over 4000 rpm and became lighter by 20 kg. And sports results speak for themselves: Renault took 11 awards and titles, as a manufacturer of engines in partnership with Williams and Benetton.
And only in 2002, Renault returned to the track, making a comeback with a 100% Renault car: R202. Immediately in 2003, Renault pulled out two pole positions, four podium prizes and one victory. Is it secret? A solid team and – most importantly – the arrival of a young pilot ace: Spaniard Fernando Alonso. This year, the charismatic young driver became the youngest Grand Prix winner in history at the age of just 22 years and 26 days! Alchemy between Renault and Alonso continued to work in 2005, when the team and its young protégé won both the design championship and the world pilot championship. At the age of 24, Fernando Alonso became the youngest world champion in history.
After the furious season, Renault managed to knock out both titles again in 2006. After the restrained 2007 season, Renault performed better in 2008 with two wins by Fernando Alonso. At the end of a difficult year of 2009, Renault restructured its participation in Formula 1 and sold a controlling stake in the Renault F1 Team to Genii Capital, however, retaining a 25% stake in the team (the remainder of its shares of the Renault F1 team sells at the end of 2010).
2010 turned out to be a magical season for Renault as the leading engine supplier, with nine wins over the course of the year with Red Bull Racing, and a clean podium at the Monaco Grand Prix. Of course, the season finale brought the main prize: a victory in the driver’s and design championships for Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing, respectively. The same heroes defended these titles back to back in 2011.
June 27, 1906, Le Mans. Under the welcoming roar of the audience, the French Renault car, equipped with Michelin tires, is the first to cross the finish line, “bringing” the nearest rival for more than half an hour. So Ferenc Shish behind the wheel of a Renault AK won the first Grand Prize, held under the flag of the ACF. Sports director Renault Jean Terramorsi literally fell in love at this moment. In addition to fame in the autosport world, that victory brought Renault fame in business. It turned out that the success of the serial cars directly depends on the success on the race tracks more than a century ago, this truth was not as obvious as it is today. Terramorsi, taking the post of manager of the sports department of Reno at the beginning of the 70s, consistently and persistently “beat out” new sports programs from the top management of the concern. First there were the “younger” Formula, then Le Mans, the race of sports prototypes, and, finally, the turn came to Formula 1.
Soon the long-awaited decision was received, the money was allocated, people were ready to work, but then a problem arose and not small. As it turned out, the engine builders of the auto giant simply did not have a suitable motor. The sporting regulations of Formula 1 ordered race cars to have aspirated engines up to 3000 cubic meters and the amount of supercharged was limited to 1500 cubic meters. But there was nowhere to retreat. The team made a bid for the turbocharged 1.5 V6 engine, which was distinguished by high power. The problem with the engines was solved, and this led the factory pilot Renault (and part-time engineer) Jean-Pierre Zhabuy at the 1977 British Grand Prix. Zhabui made every effort to adequately present the debut of his team, but the car was damp, and handling left much to be desired. Of the 26 qualified cars, the yellow Renault occupied the far 21st place, which left no hope of success. In addition, in the first laps of the race, the turbosystem failed, which naturally immediately reduced the engine size by half, and at the same time its power.
By the way, it was then that the name of French cars that became popular later “Yellow teapots” appeared. Such a comparison was due to the strange shape of the air intake and the haze that periodically erupted from it. The next two stages, the team did not go machinery was urgently developed, malfunctions were fixed and a few was strengthened. Another phenomenon of “yellow teapots” to the people occurred in the Dutch Zandvoort. Did the changes work? Zhabuy qualified tenth, but in the race he got off on lap 39 due to suspension problems. This tenth result remained the best in that season. In the offseason, the focus was on improving reliability. In addition, the team was so busy with tests and fine-tuning the car that it did not go to the first two South American stages, and appeared only in Kyaly at the 1978 South African GP. The choice was not accidental it was believed that the turbo engine has an advantage over aspirated ones in conditions of rarefied high mountain air. And this assumption was confirmed by the sixth place Zhabui in qualifying. Earn him here first points for the team, but all hopes were buried along with the failed engine.
Further stages of the season as two drops of water reminded the previous year. The only pilot of the team was chased by permanent equipment failures, and more often exactly the engine. The exception was Monaco and Spain, where the car at least was able to finish. Some, inspiring hope, progress, however, there has been closer to the end of the season. Zhabui managed to qualify third in Austria and Italy, and a miracle happened in Watkins Glen. Starting from the third row, the Frenchman did the impossible finished fourth. The honor of the uniform was saved, and just recently, at Le Mans, the Reno team celebrated their victory in the 24-hour marathon. That meant one thing. Now all the forces will be thrown on Formula 1.
This is what happened. The creation of a completely new chassis began. And Zhabui got a partner – Rene Arnu. He was also French. In general, Renault entered Formula 1 as a national French project. With reliability, the team still had problems, but the results went on to improve. In Dijon, the French waited for a real holiday. First, the team occupied the entire first row of the starting field, and then Jean-Pierre Zhabuy won the first race for Renault after a 73-year hiatus, René Arnou finished third, skipping ahead only Gilles Villeneuve on the championship Ferrari. After that, five more poles were recorded on the team’s personal account, but constantly some small breakdowns did not give the pilots the opportunity to prove themselves worthily. But, despite these, in general, modest results, the French were able not only to bring themselves to respect, but also pretty scared competitors. They were no longer called “yellow teapots,” and Enzo Ferrari even ordered to hastily curtail the work on finishing the next year’s car and throwing all his strength on the development of the turbo engine.