The teams: Renault (F1 2008)

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Nelson Piquet Jnr had a tough debut season with Renault

Renault started the year struggling to get into Q3 and score points.

Eight months later it has scored back-to-back victories in Singapore and Japan and re-signed star driver Fernando Alonso – which seemed a remote possibility earlier on.

Can it continue the progress over the winter and return to championship-challenging form in 2009?

Renault hit form late in 2008 – after struggling to get in the lower echelons of points for much of the year they made strides or progress in the final quarter and won two races. It ended a two-year win drought and raised expectations of more to come in 2009.

Car problems

The R28 was the cause of most of their problems early in the season. In 2007 the team looked exhausted from two consecutive championship fights. In the R27 they failed to master the challenge of adapting their Michelin-biased designs towards the demands of the new, single-specification Bridgestone tyres.

While the designers grappled with the aerodynamics at the start of 2008 there were questions about whether the team had lost focus. Flavio Briatore bought into Queens’ Park Rangers football team in the off-season, and his attention was divided between it and the F1 team.

Meanwhile Renault was missing the kind of tricks Briatore is usually wise to: like exploiting clauses in the ‘engine freeze’ regulations to get more performance out of their power plant. While other teams made use of these devious tweaks, Renault did not, and found themselves increasingly left behind.

Briatore is now arguing that all teams’ engine specifications should be equalised in 2009. But his team’s form over the final races of 2008 rather undermines his position.

Alonso back on form

As the team struggled with the R28 early in the season lead driver Alonso began to show signs of frustration. A low-fuel qualifying effort on home ground at Catalunya netted second on the grid – but after a spin on the way to the grid he slipped down the order in the race before his engine finally went pop. With Nelson Piquet Jnr spinning out early on, this was the nadir of the team’s 2008 campaign.

By the time the R28 was a competitive proposition Alonso was back on top form. The same could not be said of his team mate. Piquet had a conspicuously worse debut season than Heikki Kovalainen had at the same address in 2007. Kovalainen had been dropped, but Piquet is being retained for 2009, so the team must see some value in him – even if it is merely giving his team mate one less thing to worry about.

As Michael Counsell pointed out here, Alonso scored more points than any other driver in the final eight races of 2008. But will he be able to carry that form into 2009? Late in 2006 Jenson Button out-scored everyone over the final six rounds, but the less said about his 2007 and 2008 championships the better.

Renault developed their 2008 car more aggressively later in the season than many of their competitors. Will that hurt them when next year’s season begins in five months’ time?

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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7 comments on “The teams: Renault (F1 2008)”

  1. seeing the R28 from that angle just makes you realise how PINCHED that back end is, take the winglets off and its the Dita Von Teese of the F1 machines.

  2. Tbh i dont think nelson piquet had a bad first year, to finish on the podium in that car in your first year is something to be proud of

  3. Tbh i dont think nelson piquet had a bad first year, to finish on the podium in that car in your first year is something to be proud of

    Are you kidding? Piquet was driving in 14th spot over 80 seconds behind Hamilton before the safety car handed him the lead.

  4. I really don’t think you can put Button in the same league as Alonso !

    Even when Alonso won those two races the car was mediocre at best, so unless they produce an absolute dog next year I fully expect to see Alonso in contention.

  5. Flavio Briatore himself commented a few years ago that in F1 you have to “hit the ground running” at the start of the season. (Which Ferrari incidentally have failed to do – I stand to be corrected – but at least for the last four years) Maybe that’s more the Renault philosophy than Ferrari’s (who seem to develop their car the best DURING the season along with Mclaren ) therefore if Renault have productive winter tests and can start the year in front , they will have a good chance. If not , I can’t see them making it yet again.

  6. One would hope that a strong Renault/Alonso combination could join a BMW who saved themselves for 2009 and give us a 4-team fight for the titles, though experience has shown that it never quite works out like that.

    But I think you have to say pound for pound Alonso was the best driver out there this year.

  7. Renault and Alonso’s campaign certainly supports the idea of the ‘0.6 seconds men’. At the beginning of the year there where a lot of people saying that Alonso was overrated, now I would like to see where they are…

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