A team very much focused on rebuilding after the scandalous ‘Crashgate’ affair, things were looking up for the team after it launched and ran its new R31 at Valencia in February. There was fresh investment, a new (retro-inspired) livery, and much intrigue about the car’s nifty forward-facing exhausts.
Robert Kubica headed the timesheets to look every bit the championship contender we all though he was, and then he nearly dies in a rally accident.
So what challenges lie ahead for Renault in 2011?
Renault’s 2010 track record
Come the end of 2010, it seemed a lifetime ago to recall the terrible state the team appeared to be in during the 2009-10 off-season. Disgraced Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds had left after ‘Crashgate’, many sponsors had walked out and Fernando Alonso had jumped ship to Ferrari. A curious Luxembourg group called Genii Capital bought into the team, and it all seemed a little strange. Newly installed team boss Eric Boullier was an unknown quantity, and the new R30 hadn’t been particularly brisk in pre-season testing. It wasn’t looking good…
But how it changed in 2010! Boullier – along with team owner Gerard Lopez – quietly got on with the job of running the show, while the technical team kept delivering updates to a steadily-improving car, which allowed Kubica (in particular) to spring several surprises and mix it with the leading three teams.
The aggressive development of the R30 brought in its own blown diffuser and eventually an ‘F-duct’ that – although installed late in the season – proved potent and propelled the seemingly underpowered car further forward.
The ongoing success brought in new sponsors such as HP, as well as new eastern European investors in deference to Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov sitting in the number-two car. But it wasn’t a bottomless pit, and the team rather infamously had to request an advance on its TV revenue money so it could finance its ‘F-duct’ development.
Despite his ample backing, Petrov tried to spend most of it on spare parts, with his rookie season littered with umpteen accidents as he explored the limits of the car and the limits of his talent. While he was impressively quick at times, the team didn’t extract the best from him by giving him enough guidance with which to hone his skills.
Watch the Richard’s F1 pre-season vodcast as Richard and Jen discuss the challenges Renault will face during 2011 F1 season having suffered the loss of Robert Kubica:
CLICK HERE to return to our 2011 Team & Driver Profiles.
[Images via AUTOSPORT]
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