Famous Five... Renault-powered F1 winners

19th September 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

Speculation that McLaren would end its disastrous second Formula 1 engine partnership with Honda after three years was recently confirmed, as you’ll doubtless know. At the same time, as expected, the British team announced that it would instead be using Renault powerplants from the start of 2018. 


Falling out of love with Honda, with which McLaren had an exclusive works supply of 1.6-litre turbo hybrids, means the Woking squad returns to the ranks of engine ‘customer’ for next season. 

How will the team, the second most successful to Ferrari in terms of race wins, fare? You’d be forgiven for suggesting that a McLaren-Renault tie-up could hardly achieve any less than the 21st-century McLaren-Honda liaison. 

With the factory Renault squad to go up against, as well as the Renault-built, TAG Heuer-branded units in the back of the Red Bulls, McLaren will need to get its act together if it’s to join the five customer teams who’ve tasted success with The Regie down the years. Here they are in descending order of race victories, and it’s interesting to see how they compare with the 35 wins racked up by the works team during its stop-start spells in F1 since 1977.

Williams – 64 wins

The Williams-Renault partnership was one of the most successful in F1 history. After losing Honda power to McLaren for 1988 and enduring a winless year with a Judd V8, Williams joined forces with Renault for 1989, winning together for the first time in Canada, the sixth race of the year, courtesy of Thierry Boutsen and the FW12C. The Belgian and his Italian team-mate Riccardo Patrese took three more wins between them over the next season and a half, before the dominant FW14 and FW14B swept all before them, led by Nigel Mansell, in 1991-’92. The winning spree continued for the next five years, with Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Mansell, David Coulthard, Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen taking the tally to 63. A 64th and final win came 15 years later, via Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado’s shock win in Spain in 2012 in the otherwise uncompetitive FW34.

Red Bull – 50 wins

The drinks giant joined F1 as a fully-fledged constructor in 2005, using Cosworth engines, before switching to Ferrari power for 2006. Neither partnership generated the marketing kudos of F1 success that Dietrich Mateschitz craved, so a long-term deal with Renault was brokered for 2007. In year three, with Sebastian Vettel joining from the Toro Rosso ‘feeder’ team, the wins began to flood in, starting in China in 2009. Vettel and Red Bull lost the titles to the perfect storm that was Jenson Button and Brawn that year but then cleaned up over the next four years, securing driver/constructor title doubles each year. Thanks to Daniel Ricciardo in Azerbaijan earlier this season, Red Bull and Renault engines (albeit now badged TAG Heuer in deference to a commercial deal) are still winning. However, the team continues to face an uphill struggle against the might of Mercedes and Ferrari.

Benetton – 12 wins 

Despite winning the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles with Ford Zetec V8 power in 1994, Benetton saw the light and joined Williams as a Renault V10 customer for 1995. Michael Schumacher, who’d taken his first F1 win with Benetton in 1992, battled hard throughout the ’95 season with Williams nemesis Damon Hill, with some of the controversy carried over from the year before. Thanks to nine wins, the German took a second straight title before announcing he was joining Ferrari for 1996. The other three Benetton-Renault victories came courtesy of Johnny Herbert, winner at Silverstone and Monza in ’95 after Hill and Schumacher collided, and Gerhard Berger, who took his final career win at Hockenheim in 1997. Four more winless seasons elapsed before Renault announced its return to F1 as a full-scale effort for 2002. With Fernando Alonso on the books, more wins and titles were just around the corner.

Lotus (old) – 5 wins

While still winning with its all-yellow works cars in 1983, Renault began an engine-supply deal with Lotus. For 1985, which would prove to be the factory squad’s last in F1 until returning in 2002, the Lotus-Renault tie-up joined the winners’ circle for the first time, courtesy of Ayrton Senna’s wet-weather masterclass in the Portuguese GP at Estoril in the JPS 97T. The Brazilian’s team-mate Elio de Angelis inherited victory next time out at Imola after Alain Prost’s underweight McLaren was excluded, while Senna made it three for the year with a win at Spa in the autumn. De Angelis made what would prove to be a tragic move to Brabham for 1986, leaving Senna to rack up two more wins with Lotus-Renault – in Spain and Detroit. There was no Renault motivation on the F1 grid during 1987 (Lotus secured Honda power) and ’88 but the firm would return with Williams for 1989 and soon get back to winning ways. 

Lotus (new) – 2 wins

And this is where it gets confusing because new Lotus is nothing to do with old Lotus – and the statistical records are skewed because of it. New Lotus arrived in F1 in 2010 as one of the three new teams, alongside HRT and Virgin Racing. Its cars were powered by Cosworth 2.4-litre V8s and achieved next to nothing during 2010 and 2011. When the factory Renault squad pulled out of F1 – again – at the end of 2011 the Enstone-based team became known as Lotus, while what had been the new-for-2010 effort changed its name to Caterham. Still with me?! For 2012, the Renault-powered Lotus cars were driven by Kimi Raikkonen, who returned to F1 after a couple of years trying to master the World Rally Championship and Romain Grosjean. They proved to be a competitive proposition and Kimi took a popular victory in the season finale in Abu Dhabi. He backed that up with success in the opening race of 2013 in Melbourne. And that’s where the statistical anomaly occurs: old Lotus won 79 GPs between 1960 and 1987, although the records say it, in fact, won 81… Oh, and then Renault came back as a constructor for 2016!

Photography courtesy of LAT Images

  • Renault

  • Lotus

  • Williams

  • Benetton

  • Red Bull

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