When Daniel Ricciardo announced last season that he was going to leave Red Bull Racing to join Renault Sport, there were many in the paddock predicting similarities to this decision and that of Lewis Hamilton joining Mercedes. When Hamilton left McLaren questions were asked whether this was the right decision. Now, with four Driver’s F1 World Championships won with the Silver Arrows…no one has asked that question for a while. However, Ricciardo moving to Renault should not have been such a surprise and nor should the fact that recent races have seen the French manufacturer challenging towards the front of the grid.
Renault has been associated in some way or another with Formula One since 1977. Although not being around for every year since then to present day, more times than not, a mention of Renault has been found in the constructors’ table as either a constructor or engine supplier. The French outfit first put themselves under the scrutinizing F1 spotlight in 1977. Their debut came under the Renault Sport subsidiary with the RS01, their first Formula One car. It arrived containing a turbo engine – the first one seen in the championship. However, they were late to the party following delays and only ran in the last five races of the ’77 season.
The ’77 season for Renault is remembered for poor qualifying results which hindered race performance. Fast forward to 2019 and that is exactly how the situation looked for both Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo (with China the exception)
Australia: Ricciardo 11th – Hulkenberg 12th
Bahrain: Ricciardo 11th – Hulkenberg 17th
China: Ricciardo 7th – Hulkenberg 8th
Azerbaijan: Ricciardo 11th – Hulkenberg 16th
Spain: Ricciardo 10th – Hulkenberg 16th
The Renault RS18 had taken a while to find its feet as commented on by Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul ahead of Monaco: “The first five races of the year have been disappointing but as ever we have adapted to address the situation…We understand the overall level of our car and the progress we need to make to satisfy our objectives…We have the necessary ability, resources and resilience at Enstone and Viry, but also two determined and talented drivers to recover our real competitiveness level.”
When Monaco arrived, so too did a 7th place in qualifying (a 6th place start for the race) and a 9th placed finish for Ricciardo - but better could have been achieved with better strategy. However, the Momentum continued in Montreal as Ricciardo started 4th and finished 6th; Hulkenberg started 7th and finished 7th – reason to be cheerful and optimistic indeed. Now the tide appears to be shifting which is why there is great excitement ahead of Sunday.
Sunday’s race will be the 60th French Grand Prix to make up the calendar of a Formula 1 season. With such a historic milestone it would be fitting for a French manufacturer to perform well. Following the events of Montreal, Renault feel this could be another successful weekend.
Daniel Ricciardo is well aware of the success that Renault brought his former teammate at Red Bull Racing due to the four titles won by Sebastian Vettel behind the wheel of a car carrying their engine. Ricciardo also knew that it would not be a quick fix and history supports this.
After entering the F1 stage in 1977, despite a few second and third places in the constructor’s championship, it would be 28 years before Renault won their first title thanks to the skill of Fernando Alonso in the historic 2005 F1 season. However, I certainly do not think it will take this current Renault package 28 years to succeed. If 2021 regulations level the playing field, you can be sure that Renault will be ready to pounce and maybe just maybe Daniel Ricciardo will once again be a contender for the F1 Drivers’ World Championship.
Back to present day, it is 2019 and we approaching the 8th race of the championship. Renault F1 Team is currently 5th in the standings and just 2 points off McLaren F1 Team in fourth. Events move fast in F1 so do not be surprised to see Renault 4th in the standings by the end of Sunday’s race…and even higher up the table in the coming years. After all, that is what Renault is known for.