- Founded: (1977 - 1985) 2002
- Based: Enstone, England and Viry-Chatillon, France
- World Constructors' Titles: 2
- World Drivers' Titles: 2
- Grand Prix Victories: 35
- Pole Positions: 50
Renault's success cannot be dissociated from its unusual, flamboyant team leader. Flavio came to car racing by accident in 1988 when he was invited to a race by Luciano Benetton, of the family that owned the Benetton team and the clothing company where Flavio worked as a manager in the U.S. Flavio was bitten by the racing bug and decided to run the team. By 1995 it had won three F1 titles, despite the disparaging nickname the other teams gave to it: the T-shirt team. After a few years off at the end of the decade, Flavio rejoined when Renault bought the team, and he led it to titles in 2005 and 2006.
Pat joined the Toleman F2 team even before it went to F1 in 1981. Except briefly in the early 90s, he stayed on through its Benetton years and up to the present incarnation as Renault. As technical director and race strategist, he is one of the leading brains not only at the factory in Enstone, but also at races. While some of the other key people from the Michael Schumacher years joined the German at Ferrari, Pat stayed and fell out of the spotlight. Yet his clear role in helping Renault win the last two championships made his reputation as one of the best technical directors and strategists in F1.
A Brief History:
There are three brief histories for the Renault team. The first concerns the French car company's experience in the sport as a full engine and chassis manufacturer from 1977 to 1985. The team won 15 races and finished as high as second in 1983, but it failed to win a title. The second period was as an engine provider from 1989 to 1997, when it won several world championships by providing engines to Williams and Benetton. The third period began in 2002 and culminated in Renault winning its first titles as a team building both engine and chassis. With only about the 5th highest team budget, the key was teamwork.
More Recent Times:
When Renault began racing under its own name in 2002 few people in F1 thought it would win the championship within three years - let alone win again the following year. After Schumacher left Benetton in 1995, taking with him to Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn and designer Rory Byrne, Benetton looked like it had been gutted. Flavio Briatore soon left too and by 2001 the team finished in seventh in the series with 10 points. But with the purchase by Renault - the team's engines are built in France, the chassis in the UK - and the return of Flavio and the arrival of Fernando Alonso, things soon began to change.
The Alonso Factor:
Although no driver can win the title without a great car and team, teams also need drivers they can depend on for speed, intelligence and courage to win titles. Fernando Alonso has plenty of all three. Where Schumacher helped to build the Benetton team around himself, the Renault team built itself around the young Fernando thanks partly to Fernando's manager, Flavio Briatore, who was also the team director. But mostly because Fernando proved he merited it. As soon as the team provided a winning car, Alonso delivered. Again, with Alonso absent, the team failed to win in 2007 - and then won twice upon his return.
In 2008, after a difficult season at McLaren, Alonso returned to Renault and the team won twice. With a new teammate, Nelson Piquet Jr., and a team that has worked hard to understand the Bridgestone tires and fix a problem with the wind tunnel, the team was strong again, if not an immediate dominating force. At the end of 2008 the rules were rewritten to help Renault return to full strength. While some teams had learned to tweak their engines despite a development ban, Renault had not touched its engine. The rules were then written to allow Renault to catch up to the others - Ferrari, for instance.