- This article is about the 1977–1985 team. For the team which competed as Renault F1 team from 2002-2011, see Renault F1. For Renault engines see Renault (Engine Supplier).
|Full Name||Equipe Renault Elf (1977-1985)|
|Base||Viry-Châtillon, Paris, France|
|Noted Staff||Bernard Dudot|
|Noted Drivers||Jean-Pierre Jabouille|
|Formula One World Championship|
|Debut||1977 British Grand Prix|
|Final race||1985 Australian Grand Prix|
Équipe Renault Elf was a French Formula One constructor from 1977 to 1985. In 1977, the company entered Formula One as a constructor, introducing the turbo engine to Formula One in its first car, the Renault RS01. Although the Renault team won races and competed for world titles, it withdrew at the end of 1985.
Renault was founded in 1899 by Louis Renault and his brothers Marcel and Fernand. They immediately saw the marketing value in motor racing and their successes in the early town-to-town races made the Renault name famous throughout France. Marcel Renault was among those who lost their lives in the Paris-Madrid race of 1903, prompting the company to cease racing for two years until Louis decided to return to competition. In 1906 Hungarian Ferenc Szisz won the first French Grand Prix, driving a Renault AK 90CV, however two years later the company withdrew from Grand Prix racing and would not return for over 60 years.
In 1975 the CEO of Renault, Bernard Hanon, decided to create a fully fledged Formula One team. The team had its origins in Alpine and Gordini. Alpine (a partially owned subsidiary of Renault since 1973) constructed various chassis and prepared engines for Formula Two. In 1973, Renault-Gordini introduced a two-litre V6 engine for F2, the CH, which was the basis of its future Le Mans and F1 engines. Jean-Pierre Jabouille won the European Formula 2 Championship in 1976, and by this time Alpine, with Jabouille driving, had built a Formula One car as a testing mule. Gordini merged with Alpine to form Renault Sport in 1976, which would oversee the Equipe Renault team. The car designed by Alpine led to the Renault RS01 which would be used for the team's debut in 1977. Bernard Dudot was responsible for designing the engine, a V6 turbo derived from the earlier CH Formula 2 engine.
Renault entered the last five races of 1977 with Jean-Pierre Jabouille in its only car. The Renault RS01 with its Renault-Gordini V6 1.5 L turbocharged engine was the first regularly used turbo engined car in Formula One history. The first team entered was the 1977 French Grand Prix, the ninth round of the season, but the car was not yet ready. Therefore team's début was delayed until the following round, the British Grand Prix. The car's first qualifying session was not a success, with Jabouille qualifying 21st out of the 30 runners and 26 starters, 1.62 seconds behind pole sitter James Hunt in the McLaren. Jabouille ran well in the race, running as high as 16th before the car's turbo failed on lap 17.
The team missed the following German and Austrian Grands Prix as the car was being improved after its British disappointment. Renault returned for the Dutch Grand Prix, and the qualifying performance was much improved as Jabouille qualified tenth. He had a poor start, but ran as high as sixth before the car suffered a suspension failure on lap 40. The team's poor qualifying form returned in Italy, as Jabouille qualified 20th. He ran outside the top 10 until his engine failed on lap 24, continuing their awful run of reliability. Things improved at Watkins Glen for the United States Grand Prix as Jabouille qualified 14th, but he retired in the race with yet another reliability problem, this time the alternator, on lap 31. Jabouille failed to qualify in Canada; as 27 drivers entered the race, only one would not qualify, and this was Jabouille as he ended up last, over 7.5 seconds behind fastest qualifier Mario Andretti of Lotus. After this, Renault did not travel to the season finale in Japan. During the year the RS01 had became something of a joke, earning the nickname of "Yellow Teapot" due to it's poor reliability.
The team did not enter the first two races of 1978, in Argentina and Brazil, but returned for the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. Jabouille secured Renault's best qualifying position to date, with sixth place, just 0.71 seconds behind polesitter Niki Lauda in the Brabham. He dropped out of the points early in the race before retiring with electrical problems on lap 39. At Long Beach, Jabouille qualified 13th, but retired as the turbo failed again on lap 44. He was twelfth in qualifying for the team's first Monaco Grand Prix, and gave the team their first finish in Formula One, finishing in tenth place. Mid season the team suffered seven straight retirements from Sweden to Italy. Jabouille and the RS01 managed to finish its first race still on the lead lap at Watkins Glen near the end of 1978, giving the team a fourth-place finish and its first Formula One points.
For 1979 the team expanded to two cars with René Arnoux joining Jabouille. The season was slow to start, with only Jabouille finishing once in the first 3 races. By mid-season however, both drivers had a new ground-effect car, the RS10, and at Dijon for the French Grand Prix the team legitimised itself with a brilliant performance in a classic race. The two Renaults qualified on the front row, and pole-sitter Jabouille won the race, the first driver in a turbo-charged car to do so, while Arnoux and Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve were involved in an extremely competitive duel for second, Arnoux narrowly getting beaten to the line. While Jabouille ran into hard times after that race, Arnoux finished a career-high second at Silverstone in the following race and then repeated that at Watkins Glen, proving it was not a fluke.
For 1980 Renault continued with Jabouille and Arnoux using the new RE20. The season started well with consecutive wins in Brazil and South Africa, for Arnoux, both on high altitude circuits where the Renaults were dominant. Meanwhile Jabouille continued to have problems with retirements, but in his only points finish he emerged victorious in Austria. At the end of the year Jabouille crashed heavily at the Canadian GP and suffered serious leg injuries, which effectively ended his career as a Grand Prix driver. The team finished the season in fourth place with 38 points, their best finishing position since they entered Formula One.
For 1981 Alain Prost was hired to replace the outgoing Jabouille. For the first five races of the year he and Arnoux used the modified RE20B. Prost achieved a third place finish at his third race with the team at Argentina. At Monaco the new RE30 was introduced with Prost taking his debut victory on home soil two races later. Prost followed this up with wins at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, which gave him an outside chance at the world championship. Unreliability cost him his chance, but he finished a respectable fourth in the final standings. Arnoux had a very unlucky season and bore the brunt of most of the mechanical trouble that affected the RE30's development, most of which was done by Prost. The team ended the year in 3rd place with a total of 54 points their best finish yet.
Prost and Arnoux were before retained for the 1982 season along with the modified RE30B. Prost made a strong start to the season with wins in Brazil and South Africa to underline his intention to win the championship that season. However, those would be his only victories of the year, as Ferrari, Williams and McLaren overtook Renault in the technology race. The RE30B was a formidable qualifying car, with Prost or Arnoux on pole for the majority of the races, but reliability was suspect for both drivers. Arnoux achieved two wins during the latter half of the year, but only finished four races during the whole season. Prost's relationship with Arnoux deteriorated after the French Grand Prix. Prost believed that Arnoux, who won the race, went back on a pre-race agreement to support Prost during the race. The team once again finished third but with an increased tally of 62 points in total.
1983 saw American Eddie Cheever replace the outgoing Arnoux who was bound for Ferrari. Prost was retained by the team, as was the further modified RE30C for the first two races. The RE40 was availbe for Prost at round two, while Cheever had to wait until round three. Prost scored consistently and took four wins during the season. Cheever, who accepted being the number two driver behind Prost, proved to be a good team mate; unlike with Arnoux, Prost and Cheever got on well and the atmosphere within the team was generally good. Cheever scored several podiums and was in line for victory on more than one occasion, but for more reliability he might have broken his duck. Prost led the drivers' championship for most of the season, ahead of rival Arnoux, and 1981 World Champion Nelson Piquet in the Brabham-BMW, but at the final round in South Africa the turbo in Prost's car failed and Piquet won the title by two points.
By the end of the season Prost was tired of Renault's inability to put together a consistent challenge for either championship and was sacked at season's end after publicly criticising the team for their lack of development on the RE40. He would join McLaren at the end of the year. Prost's win at the Austrian Grand Prix would prove to be the French team's last win in their original run in Formula One.
Two new drivers were required for 1984 after Prost was fired and Cheever left for Alfa Romeo. They came in the form of Frenchman Patrick Tambay (who had left Ferrari) and Englishman Derek Warwick (formerly of Toleman). Despite a few good results, including Tambay giving the team its last pole position at the 1984 French Grand Prix at Dijon, the team was not as competitive as it had been the prevoius three years. Between them Tambay and Warwick (along with test driver Philippe Streiff in a one off drive at the season ending Portuguese Grand Prix) scored 1 fastest race lap along with a total of 5 podiums contributing to a tally of 34 points to give Renault 5th place in the constructors championship after finishing 2nd in 1983.
For 1985 the team retained both Tambay and Warwick for what proved to be their final season as a constructor. Top Renault engineer Michel Tetu and four other key personnel had left the team before the season started and the entire team's employment structure had been reshuffled; this proved to be a total disaster for the Renault team. Upon getting to Rio de Janeiro for pre-season testing the new RE60 proved to be 3 1/2 seconds slower than the previous year's RE50. It proved to be a lackluster season, the best results were two third places for Tambay, in Portugal and San Marino, the second and third races of the season. 1985 provided another F1 first however, as the team ran a third car in Germany at the new Nürburgring that featured the first in-car camera which could be viewed live by a television audience. Driven by Frenchman François Hesnault, the car only lasted 8 laps before a clutch problem forced it to retire. The team finished their last season in 7th place with a total of 16 points, their worst total since 1978.
In 1985, major financial problems emerged at Renault and the company could no longer justify the large expenses needed to maintain the racing team's competitiveness. Renault had decided that funding a Formula One team was not worth attempts developing technology for their road cars and the bad PR generated by their continuous failures to be competitive had been the final straw. CEO Georges Besse pared down the company's involvement in F1 from full-fledged racing team to engine supplier for the 1986 season before taking it entirely out of F1 at the end of that year. While the team and the Renault turbo engine had ultimately been successful in winning races they had never won either the constructors' nor drivers' championships.
Complete Formula One resultsEdit
(key) (Results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
|1977||RS01||EF1 1.5 V6 t||M||ARG||BRA||RSA||USW||ESP||MON||BEL||SWE||FRA||GBR||GER||AUT||NED||ITA||USA||CAN||JPN||0||NC|
|1978||RS01||EF1 1.5 V6 t||M||ARG||BRA||RSA||USW||MON||BEL||ESP||SWE||FRA||GBR||GER||AUT||NED||ITA||USA||CAN||3||12th|
|EF1 1.5 V6 t||M||ARG||BRA||RSA||USW||ESP||BEL||MON||FRA||GBR||GER||AUT||NED||ITA||CAN||USA||26||6th|
|1980||RE20||EF1 1.5 V6 t||M||ARG||BRA||RSA||USW||BEL||MON||FRA||GBR||GER||AUT||NED||ITA||CAN||USA||38||4th|
|EF1 1.5 V6 t||M||USW||BRA||ARG||SMR||BEL||MON||ESP||FRA||GBR||GER||AUT||NED||ITA||CAN||CPL||54||3rd|
|1982||RE30B||EF1 1.5 V6 t||M||RSA||BRA||USW||SMR||BEL||MON||DET||CAN||NED||GBR||FRA||GER||AUT||SUI||ITA||CPL||62||3rd|
|EF1 1.5 V6 t||M||BRA||USW||FRA||SMR||MON||BEL||DET||CAN||GBR||GER||AUT||NED||ITA||EUR||RSA||79||2nd|
|1984||RE50||EF4 1.5 V6 t||M||BRA||RSA||BEL||SMR||FRA||MON||CAN||DET||DAL||GBR||GER||AUT||NED||ITA||EUR||POR||34||5th|
| EF4B 1.5 V6 t|
EF15 1.5 V6 t