Since returning to Formula One as a fully-fledged manufacturer team in 2016, Renault have successfully made their way from the near bottom of the F1 table to the top of the mid-field. But can the French manufacturer make the next step and challenge the established top 3 teams?
From the bottom to the top, of the midfield that is
Under the Lotus branding in 2015, 2016 proved to be a difficult year because of the financial struggles in ’15’. The car was slow and unreliable and this was partly due to the restructuring of the team management. The lack of upgrades and the poor performing power unit prevented the team from making any real progress. Piloted by Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, the two drivers would score 8 points between them to leave Renault in 9th place out of the 11 teams.
Palmer remained with the team while Nico Hulkenberg joined in place of Magnussen. This was a far more competitive season and after the Japanese GP, Hulkenberg had scored 34 points compared to Palmer’s 8. The team signed Carlos Sainz Jr to replace the struggling Brit and was able to score 6 points. Finishing the season with 57 points, Renault finished in 6th place, a dramatic improvement from last year.
With Hulkenberg and Sainz remaining, the two drivers were able to fight for points on a consistent basis. With the development of the R.S.18, the Enstone factory was expanded to accommodate the team’s operations. This was also helped by Renault pulling out of Formula E after the 2017/18 season to focus on its work as an F1 team. After a season-long battle with the American Haas team, Renault finished “best of the rest” in 4th on 122 points.
This is a bold move but is also a statement from the French manufacturer by signing a race winner. Having taking 3 race wins, 29 podiums, 3 pole positions in 150 races, Daniel Ricciardo’s shock move from Red Bull to Renault is definitely a move that could be crucial for both parties.
Ricciardo’s move to Renault is a bit like Lewis Hamilton’s decision to leave McLaren for Mercedes for 2013, and we all know how that played out!
From recent images on social media, it’s looks like Ricciardo has settled into Renault well with the Australian and Hulkenberg sharing videos and images of each other. Personally, I can’t wait to see Ricciardo for the team!
Closing the gap to the front?
Renault believe they can “close the gap” to F1’s leading three teams in 2019, claiming developments for next season look “very promising”. They have set their sights on being championship contenders for the 2020 season but first they need to close the gap to the established top 3 teams of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
When speaking to Sky F1, Renault advisor and four-time F1 world champion Alain Prost said “for sure we wanted to be better this year for different reasons – but we will be better next year. I think we can close the gap, I just don’t know how much yet. We are working very hard on the engine side, which looks very promising.”
Renault are only powering two teams in 2019, themselves and McLaren. Red Bull for 2019 have parted company and will be using Honda engines. McLaren switched from Honda to Renault last season but failed to competitively compete with Renault which surprised the manufacturer with Team Chief Cyril Abiteboul saying “I am a bit surprised having to fight against Haas for most of the season when I was expecting it to be against McLaren.”
2019 expectations and goals
Having worked so hard over the past 3 seasons to get to the top of the midfield, Renault need to make sure, at least, that they stay there. I believe they’ll be the “dark horses” of 2019 and hopefully continuing to score points on a consistent basis.
There might even be a chance of a couple of podium finishes, which Hulkenberg is looking for.
The German has become the driver who has made the most career starts without a podium, 158 entries/ 156 starts. Hulkenberg has finished 4th on 3 occasions through-out his F1 career so far.
Whatever the case, Renault need to be aware of who they are most likely to be racing in 2019. Will they be looking behind – fending off the likes of Haas? McLaren? Or even Sauber? Or will they be looking ahead at the likes of Red Bull?
Renault will launch their 2019 challenger on the 12th of February.