Unless you’ve been in hiding in the past week or so, with no access to important motorsport news updates, you’ll know that Renault will be back in Formula 1 as a full-blown manufacturer in 2016 – marking its return to motorsport’s Premiership for the first time in five years.
During its long participation, which began in 1977 and ended finally, after several sabbaticals, in 2011, the French marque racked up 35 wins from its 300 starts. The latest chapter in the stop-start story of its F1 adventure begins next year, after it last week agreed terms to take over the Lotus team – based in its old Enstone headquarters. How long will it be before a 36th victory is added to the CV? Who knows. For the time being, though, we’ve rummaged through the history books to pick six memorable Renault race wins. We think we’ve got a suitable sextet, but do let us know if we’ve forgotten any or you’ve got a better selection!
1. French GP, Dijon, July 1, 1979
You might have forgotten that Renault stalwart Jean-Pierre Jabouille was 15 seconds up the road minding his own business en route to his and Renault’s first win. That’s because of the epic dice for second during the final few laps between J-PJ’s team-mate René Arnoux and Ferrari hero Gilles Villeneuve. There’s a passing nod to the race winner crossing the line in this clip, but what everyone’s concentrating on is the No.16 RS10 versus the No.12 Ferrari 312T4. And it comes with excitable Murray Walker commentary, which makes it even better.
2. Brazilian GP, Interlagos, January 27, 1980
The last race on the original, extra-long Interlagos brought a maiden victory for René Arnoux, the Frenchman taking the RE20 turbo to an easy, 21-second win – but only after team-mate and polesitter Jean-Pierre Jabouille suffered turbo failure at half-distance while leading. It was a bitter-sweet day for Renault – bitter for Jabouille and sweet for Arnoux. And it happened again next time out in South Africa: Jabouille took pole, led for 61 of the 78 laps until a puncture put paid to his efforts, and Arnoux eased to victory. Whatever the circumstances in Brazil, it was a great day for Renault, whose turbo power made them a dominant force in Sao Paulo.
3. South African GP, Kyalami, January 23, 1982
Once all the pre-race shenanigans over the terms of the drivers’ superlicences, including them briefly going on strike, were sorted, Renault made the opening GP of the season its own, thanks to René Arnoux taking pole and Alain Prost winning the race. But it wasn’t quite as straightforward as that. Prost had to shadow Arnoux for the first 13 laps, passing his countryman and leading until lap 40 when the RE30B slowed with a puncture. Arnoux swept back into the lead, while Prost pitted for a spare. Once back up to speed, Prost charged through the field to catch and pass Arnoux with nine laps to go and deny him victory. It was a stunning performance from Prost, who notched up his fourth career win.
4. French GP, Paul Ricard, July 25, 1982
The sweet taste of a maiden one-two for Renault on home soil soon turned sour when its drivers Alain Prost and René Arnoux waged a war of words over the finishing order. Arnoux won the race by 17 seconds from Prost, but he’d disobeyed a team order that said if they were running one-two, with Arnoux in front, he must let Prost past to help Alain’s better championship position. That order was ignored and Prost wasn’t very amused. Still Renault got its one-two. The race also featured a miraculous escape for Goodwood favourite Jochen Mass, whose March cartwheeled over the barriers into a spectator area. Mercifully, no-one was hurt, with the German retiring from F1 on the spot after escaping with minor burns to his hands.
5. Hungarian GP, Hungaroring, August 24, 2003
In only its second season back after a 16-year sabbatical, the factory Renault squad, which had taken over the Benetton team for 2002, scored its first win since Alain Prost had triumphed in the 1983 Austrian GP some 20 years to the month previously. The man behind the wheel that day in Hungary was young Spaniard Fernando Alonso, the 22-year-old becoming the youngest race winner since Bruce McLaren in 1959 (and at the time the youngest ever). Starting from his second career pole, Alonso led all but one of the 70 laps – the one during which he made his pitstop – and took a 16-second win over McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen. It was a record-breaking day for Renault and Alonso, who would of course go on to take back-to-back titles for the team in 2005-’06.
6 Japanese GP, Fuji, October 12, 2008
The race at Fuji, the last to be held at the historic Japanese circuit before a return to the preferred Suzuka, was not a classic, but there was plenty going on. Six different drivers – Fernando Alonso, Robert Kubica, Nelson Piquet Jr, Jarno Trulli, Sebastien Bourdais and Kimi Raikkonen – led the race at various points, but it was Alonso who was out front when it mattered. It marked a purple patch for Alonso and the resurgent team, who’d won in Singapore in the previous race in what turned out to be hugely controversial circumstances. Alonso’s five-second victory over Robert Kubica’s BMW Sauber that day remains Renault’s 35th and most recent GP win, so for that reason it’s a memorable one.
Lead image courtesy of ‘diekid’ licensed under Creative Commons 2.0