Tag Archives: Renault

Williams to use Renault engines from 2012

The coveted Renault RS27-2011 engine which Williams will use next year

The coveted Renault RS27-2011 engine which Williams will use next year

Williams F1 have announced that they will switch to using Renault engines from the start of the 2012 season.

This will cause quite the case of nostalgia for the sport’s more experienced fans, as the last time Williams and Renault teamed up were the glory days of 1989-1997. In this time, the team won 5 constructor’s titles and 4 driver’s championships.

This new deal will cover 2012 and 2013. With the engine regulation change set for 2014, talks are already underway to extend the contract past this time.

Frank Williams has stated:

We are delighted and excited by our new partnership with Renault. This reunites the 
F1 team with a leading car manufacturer and complements our new relationship with 
Jaguar.

At the same time, we are grateful to Cosworth: they have been a fair and reliable 
partner both on and off the track for the past two years and we look forward to 
working with them across our business in the future.

Our previous relationship with Renault was one of the most successful in Williams’ 
history but we will not allow ourselves to dwell too much on the past.

We must look to the future and continue to re-build our on-track reputation, which 
I am hopeful that today’s announcement will help us to do.

Apart from Williams themselves, who will now use the same power plant as world champions Red Bull, the biggest winner here is Renault. The French manufacturer will now supply engines to 4 teams next year, a third of the entire grid.

On the other hand, Cosworth have now been dealt a huge blow, with Virgin and HRT now their only customers, which will do them no good for their image.

Over the last few years, it has been believed that Renault have been allowed to make minor modifications to their engine package, despite the engine freeze since 2008. These changes were to balance the power output between their engines and those of Mercedes.

However, since the refuelling ban last year, it has emerged that the Renault engine is much more conservative in terms of fuel efficiency. It is claimed that teams with Renault engines can run with 10kg less fuel than their rivals (excluding modifications which increase fuel consumption, such as hot blown diffusers).

How the teams are shaping up after testing – Part 2

This is part 2 of a 3-post series, looking at each individual team with less than 2 weeks to go until Melbourne. So without further delay here are the next 4 teams:

Mercedes

Mercedes may well leap to the front in 2011

Mercedes may well leap to the front in 2011

After the fairytale double championship success of 2009, last year was a huge shock to the Brackley outfit. With only a handful of podiums courtesy of Rosberg, and Schumacher’s performances lacklustre at times, 2011 is a crucial year for the silver arrows.

Despite struggling in the first few test sessions, a large upgrade package has launched Mercedes back to the top of the testing timesheets. Although we aren’t exactly sure how the W02 is shaping up just yet, it seems as if the team has minimized the damage from the loss of the double diffuser and F-duct.

With Schumacher happier than last year with the slick tyres, things are looking up. Nico Rosberg appears to be very happy with the performance of the car, so race wins can’t be ruled out for either driver in 2011.

Renault

There's a lot more to the R31 than a shiny new livery

There's a lot more to the R31 than a shiny new livery

Despite the ongoing battle with Lotus over naming rights stealing the headlines (for all the wrong reasons), Renault may have made huge progress over the winter behind the scenes.

The front exhaust-blown diffuser looks like a stroke of genius, and rumours hint that there are more technical secrets hidden inside the R31. However, the temporary loss of Robert Kubica has shot down some of the high expectations they may have had. Despite Nick Heidfeld taking his seat, there are very few drivers in the world who could replace Kubica.

Vitaly Petrov is still learning, and podium finishes may be too much to ask. Heidfeld is fantastically consistent, but this means that the team will lose out in terms of raw performance.

Despite a radically designed car, Renault may still lose out, though by no fault of their own.

Williams

A radical rear end design may help or hinder Williams

A radical rear end design may help or hinder Williams

At first glances, Williams’ Fw33 doesn’t seem to be particularly exciting, having shied away in the midfield for most of testing. However, a closer look at the car will hint that the team have quietly produced a very interesting car.

With some difficulty, they have created their smallest-ever gearbox, which is crucial to having a tight rear end layout on the car, which benefits both aerodynamically and mechanically.

A low differential, combined with high-angle rear axles, have manipulated the rear wing to squeeze more downforce out of the car. Unfortunately, their coveted flywheel KERS will still not be run yet, the team opting to run a conventional battery system – for the moment.

The loss of several important sponsors has hurt the team financially, and perhaps this is what prompted them to drop Hulkenberg for sponsor-laden Maldonado. The PDVSA logos (Pastor’s sponsor) all over the FW33 demonstrates this.

Reliability appears to be a huge problem at the moment, but their raw pace has yet to be discovered.

Force India

Force India may struggle to improve

Force India may struggle to improve

The end of 2010 was very disappointing for Force India, considering the way they started the year battling near the frontrunners. 2011 has seen the field raise their game, and after losing two senior team personnel, the team may find this year just as difficult.

Both James Key and Mark Smith have left to join rival teams, leaving the technical department under-resourced. The blade roll-hoop design is risky, but apart from this there doesn’t seem to be huge leaps in design compared to the VJM03.

On the other hand, the arrival of Paul di Resta (who has beaten Sebastian Vettel in lower racing categories) should bring some extra pace. A Mercedes KERS system, by far the best of the pack in 2009, is also a huge boost.

However, I feel that this is not enough for Force India to even retain their ground. Their car has failed to impress many in testing, and the midfield will probably be the only battleground for the team in 2011.

The final post, part 3, will be up tomorrow.

Heidfeld confirmed as Kubica’s replacement

Nick Heidfeld has been chosen as Renault's driver for 2011

Nick Heidfeld has been chosen as Renault's driver for 2011

The Renault team have confirmed that Nick Heidfeld will replace the injured Robert Kubica for the 2011 season.

Nick was always the favourite for the drive, after leading the third day of testing in Jerez after a 1-day trial with the team.

Nick said:

“I would have liked to come back to Formula 1 in different circumstances, but I’m 
proud to have been given this chance.

Everything has happened so quickly, but I’ve been very impressed by what I have 
seen so far in terms of the facilities and the dedication of the people at Enstone.

I really enjoyed the test last week in Jerez and I’ve already settled in well with 
the guys at the track. I have a good feeling for the car, which is quite innovative. 
I’m extremely motivated and can’t wait for the season to begin.”

Interestingly, when Robert Kubica was asked who he would prefer to be his replacement, he stated that he would have picked Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India’s driver last year. The 26-year-old is friends with both drivers.

Heidfeld to be evaluated for Renault drive

Nick Heidfeld will be testing with Renault this weekend

Nick Heidfeld will be testing with Renault this weekend

Nick Heidfeld is to share a car with Bruno Senna this weekend in Jerez, as Renault seek a replacement for he injured Robert Kubica.

Kubica, who of course was involved in a rally crash last week, will probably be out for the entire season, and Renault have already made moves to shuffle their line-up. Vitaly Petrov will continue to drive one of the Renaults, but the other drive is up for contention.

Bruno Senna, one of the team’s test drivers, is in the running, as is Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nick Heidfeld. Nick will be evaluated by the team this weekend at Jerez, according to a statement:

Lotus Renault GP has revised its driver line-up for this week’s test session in Jerez 
de la Frontera, Spain.

Vitaly will drive the R31 on Thursday and Friday, as originally scheduled. For 
Saturday and Sunday, the team will give mileage to Bruno Senna and will also 
evaluate Nick Heidfeld, who is a potential replacement for Robert Kubica as a 
race driver. The exact running order for the weekend will be confirmed on 
Friday evening.

If Senna gets the drive, it is believed that he will take the second driver role, while Petrov would be the lead driver. On the other hand, if Heidfeld or Liuzzi is hired, then either of these two will lead the team.

Renault R31 launched

The new Renault R31

The new Renault R31

The Renault R31 has been revealed today, featuring its new black-and gold livery.

It was unveiled today in the pit lane in Valencia, where testing starts tomorrow.

At the same time, the team have also announced their two newest test drivers as Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean, joining Jan Charouz, Ho-Ping Tung and Fairuz Fauzy.

The car has dropped the shark fin layout, like Ferrari last week. They have also adopted the pull-rod suspension layout, the one that Red Bull have been using to great effect in the last 2 years.

Update: I’ve heard that the exhaust pipes on this car are nowhere to be seen. According to reports, Renault are operating a revolutionary system, where the exhaust pipes are brought to the front of the car, then the gases are pushed into an exhaust blown diffuser – all at the front of the car, not the back.

Jerome D’Ambrosio joins Virgin for Friday sessions

Jerome D'Ambrosio, also reserve driver for Renault, will now drive in FP sessions for Virgin

Jerome D'Ambrosio, also reserve driver for Renault, will now drive in FP sessions for Virgin

Virgin Racing have announced that they have signed Jerome D’Ambrosio as a test driver and as an “evaluation role” for 4 of the remaining 5 races this season. He will be replacing Lucas di Grassi in certain Friday Practice sessions for this season.

He will take part in these FP sessions in Singapore, Japan, Korea and Brazil, and the team will be continually assessing his performance. He will replace Lucas di Grassi for all of his racing time, alongside Timo Glock. At the moment, he is competing in the GP2 championship, and currently 10th.

It is also believed that he will take part in the 4-day test in Abu Dhabi after the season conclusion.

It is worth noting that while Timo Glock has 2 years left on his contract, Lucas di Grassi’s expires at the end of this year, although Virgin have the option to extend this. While D’Ambrosio may well just be being evaluated for a drive later on, the idea of him replacing Di Grassi next year can’t be ruled out.

At the moment, D’Ambrosio is part of the Gravity Sport Management, of which the CEO is Eric Boullier, team principal of the Renault team. Similarly, Jerome is a reserve driver for the Renault team, whose reserve drivers are all managed by Gravity Sports. Therefore we can’t rule out Renault using Virgin to try out the 25-year-old either.

Speculation over Petrov’s seat amid rumours of replacement

Recently, rumours have linked both Sebastien Buemi and Kimi Raikkonen to the second Renault race seat for 2011, which is currently being used by Vitaly Petrov. Amid speculation that Vitaly could be forced to make way for either of these two drivers at the end of the season, team boss Eric Boullier has said that Petrov’s future is in his own hands.

Vitaly Petrov has been the best rookie so far, but still needs to improve

Vitaly Petrov has been the best rookie so far, but still needs to improve

While Robert Kubica has signed a new 2-year deal to stay on at Renault, Petrov’s is believed to expire at the end of the season, and many drivers, particularly Raikkonen, have been tipped to take the seat off the Russian. However, Boullier has stated that he is happy with Vitaly so far, calling him the best rookie in the paddock, although he says he still needs to improve:

"His future is in his hands. We have not been disappointed by 
him - he clearly is the best rookie in the paddock.

He did some very amazing jobs sometimes [but] he's clearly today 
lacking some consistency to get the points he deserves. We 
definitely need to have both cars scoring points, so that's 
obviously creating some rumours surrounding his race seat.

But we are totally committed to him. We are happy to have him 
on board and we will do everyhting we can to help him take the 
final step to where we want him to be."

Since the rumours began, Sebastien Buemi has signed a new 1-year deal with Toro Rosso. While Kimi is still a possibility, there are many other drivers that Renault are believed to be looking at, although they are not yet known.

However, I would be very disappointed if Petrov were to be replaced, as his defensive driving has been excellent so far, with his battle with Alonso one of his best moments so far. Also, his driving in the wet in China was impressive, although he hasn’t scored a point since then.

At the end of the day, I would side with Boullier in the belief that he is the best driver on the grid, although I would also agree that improvements are needed if the team are to battle for 4th in the constructors’ championship.

Kubica commits to Renault until 2012

Robert Kubica has announced that he is committing to the Renault team, after signing a new contract that will see him remain at the French outfit until the end of 2012. The Polish driver has, in his limited time with the team so far, made a huge impression and has scored massive points for the team.

Robert Kubica will continue to race at Renault until 2012

Robert Kubica will continue to race at Renault until 2012

Kubica said this about the new deal:

"It was a straightforward decision for me to continue with a team 
where I feel at home.

What’s important for me is to be in the right atmosphere, with a 
good group of people, where everybody is pulling in the same 
direction. This is what we have tried to build from the beginning 
of my time with Renault."

Team boss Eric Boullier outlined his plans for Kubica until 2012:

"There have been many rumours surrounding his future in recent 
weeks, which were a tribute to how well he has driven this year, 
and we are very happy to have agreed a multi-year deal.

Our clear goal is to become title contenders over the next two 
years. To do so, we need a driver of Robert’s calibre: somebody 
who is fast, totally committed and doesn’t make mistakes. His 
performances during the first half of the 2010 season were flawless,
and we hope to achieve great things together in the future."

This really was a no-brainer for Kubica, as there was no spaces available at any of the top teams, with Felipe Massa and Mark Webber both recently extending their contracts at Ferrari and Red Bull respectively. As Boullier said, the aim for Renault now should be to be in contention for championships by 2012, which should be no problem with Kubica at the wheel, provided the car is up to scratch.

2010 Mid-season review: Renault

2009 was nothing short of a disaster for Renault. Despite Fernando Alonso remaining with the team for that year, team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr was consistently awful, failing to score a single point until he was replaced by Romain Grosjean, who was similarly off the pace. the Singapore 2008 “Crash-gate” scandal shook the team to its core, leading to the exit of team bosses Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds. On top of all this, the R29 was lacking in pace, although Alonso dragged it to a solitary podium in Singapore. With all of this combined, Renault’s future was in doubt for this season. But, thanks to a buyout from Genii Capital, and the hiring of Robert Kubica, the French outfit are back and firing on all cylinders.

Robert Kubica has done a fantastic job leading the Renault team back up the grid

Robert Kubica has done a fantastic job leading the Renault team back up the grid

Alongside Kubica is Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov, the “Vyborg Rocket” who came 2nd in the GP2 Series last year. Bahrain was a disappointment for the team, but in Australia Kubica snatched an unexpected podium finish, after making a great strategy call early on. Petrov retired in the first 3 races, but in his first race finish in China, he took 7th place, while Kubica was 5th.

From Australia to Valencia, Kubica has finished every single of these races in the points, and took another podium in Monaco, after very nearly taking pole position. Robert is the only driver on the gird who has been racing every single lap so far this year. He has become the driving force of the team, and has performed so well that Ferrari were rumoured to be looking at hiring him for next year. Petrov has not got a points finish since China, but had a terrific battle with Fernando Alonso in Turkey, although a later collision ruled out any points for him.

Depsite this, I would say that Petrov is one of the most impressive rookies this year, and Kubica is certainly punching well above his weight. The Renault car, while unable to challenge for wins, has been near-bulletproof in its reliability, with only 1 mechanical retirement this year. The Renault engine gives better fuel consumption, giving the team an advantage in the first 20 laps of every Grand Prix, as they can carry much less fuel. Their straight line speed is impressive, even without the F-duct. The only chink in Renault’s armour is the lack of grip compared to the top teams, but constant development in this area – most notably in the front wing area – is solving this issue.

With 83 points, Kubica has single-handedly pulled Renault back up the order, currently in 5th place, but well poised to overtake Mercedes soon. Hopefully, Vitaly can improve to get a few more points-scoring positions this year, which is all we can expect from his first year in Formula 1. However, in his defence, here’s an interesting fact for you – Petrov got a fastest lap in Turkey before Kubica got one in his entire career. With this in mind, Renault’s line-up appears to be solid.

The question is: Can they catch up to the top 3? Mercedes are already in their clutches, and hopefully after a few races can be overtaken in the standings. However, catching Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull will be much trickier. If Petrov improves next year, and the R31 is on the pace, then it could well be a possibility.

Prost Jr drives Renault F1 car

Nicolas Prost, the son of 4-times F1 champion Alain Prost, made his F1 driving debut at Magny-Cours this weekend, along with fellow test drivers Ho-Pin-Tung and Mikhail Aleshin. These 3 drivers drove the 2009-spec R29 car, which was fitted with the 2010 livery, which is very similar to the one used by Prost Sr from 1981-1983 at Renault.

Nicolas Prost won the European Formula 3000 championship in 2008, and is now competing in the Le Mans Series. Ho-Pin-Tung won the 2003 Formula BMW Asia championship, and the ATS  Formel 3 Cup, and is currently the Renault Development Driver. Mikhail Aleshin won the 2004 Formula Renault 2.0 Italy Winter Series, and is currently racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 category (and leading the championship at the moment).

All 3 of these drivers got the opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car for the first time. However, Aleshin spun the car on his run, when rain began to fall.

Most of the focus was in Prost Jr during the test. Suddenly, it seems as if the old names are returning to F1, with Rosberg and Senna already here, and Prost possibly in the future. Here are the photos from the test:

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