Great F1 cars of the last six decades: Renault R25 (Autosport International)

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Renault R25

The Renault R25 is featured at this year’s Autosport International show as one of the great racing cars of the last six decades.

The R25 was the last of a breed – the final V10-engined machine to win the world championship, and the car which broke Ferrari’s six-year winning streak in the constructors’ world championship.

It was also the car which ended Renault’s search for a world championship, which had begun almost 30 years earlier when the company first arrived in F1 in 1977.

But what is it really one of the greatest F1 cars of all time? It may have been a championship-winner, but the R25 was not a a revolution in F1 car design which sent rival teams’ engineers into a panic.

Indeed over the course of 2005 McLaren won more races with their MP4-20 – ten to Renault’s eight – and but for a loose piece of kerbing at the Shanghai circuit the silver team might have taken the constructors’ championship.

Mastering the Michelins

McLaren spent the year on the back foot because the R25 proved fast and reliable ‘out of the box’. Giancarlo Fisichella gave the car a maiden victory at Melbourne.

Fernando Alonso was quick to point out he would have beaten Fisichella had his starting position not been compromised in the rain-hit qualifying session. He backed up his words by winning the next three races in a row.

Renault and tyre suppliers Michelin had mastered the new rules preventing tyre changes during the race, producing a car which could ‘switch on’ its tyres in qualifying for a hot lap but also keep them in good condition for a full race distance.

There were a couple of exceptions. The R25 minced its soft Michelins at Monaco while an untroubled Kimi R??ikk??nen helped himself to his second win of the year.

That at Indianapolis Renault fell foul of the Michelin tyre’s sidewall failures and had to withdraw from the race. Fortunately with McLaren also running Michelins the championship damage was limited.

Reliable – and a great starter

Like most Renault cars of the mid-2000s, the R25 was especially strong from a standing start. A combination of clever electronic and rearward weight bias meant Alonso and Fisichella could rely on gaining places at the start.

This was the car which ended the six-year Ferrari domination of the championship. In at least one respect the R25 mirrored those dominant Ferraris – its reliability was exceptional. Aside from Indianapolis, the car only failed to finish three times all year. The MP4-20 suffered five mechanical retirements and its drivers also had to contend with a series of grid penalties for engine failures.

Towards the end of the year a notable innovation appeared on the R25. At Interlagos the team fitted a mass damper fitted in the car’s nose to reduce pitching when the car went over bumps or kerbs.

Similar technology was already in use on other cars – the McLaren, for example, which had begun using an inerter (also known as a J-damper) at Imola earlier that year. The mass damper became a bone of contention later in 2006 when the device was abruptly banned by the FIA.

A great car?

The 2005 season was certainly a golden period for Renault. The team simultaneously ran one double championship-winning car while developing another to significantly different technical rules. The R26 used a V8 engine and the requirement for tyres to last a full race distance was dropped – yet Renault retained both their titles in 2006.

But they’re not the only team to accomplish this feat in the last decade. Does the R25 deserves a place among genuinely game-changing cars like the Lotus 72 and Williams FW14B? If it does, then why not the McLaren MP4/4 or Ferrari F2004, both of which defined new standards of dominance by a single car?

Perhaps the R25’s place in this hall of fame owes more to what the organisers could get their hands on. It was a terrific car and a fine championship-winning machine, but perhaps not an all-time great.

More on the mass damper controversy here: Banned! Mass dampers

Renault R25

First race: 2005 Australian Grand Prix
Last race: 2005 Chinese Grand Prix
Total races: 18
Wins: 8
Pole positions: 7
Fastest laps: 3

Renault R25 pictures

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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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24 comments on “Great F1 cars of the last six decades: Renault R25 (Autosport International)”

  1. I think your closing paragraph is backed up by what you said earlier about the McLaren MP4/20. I would say that the F2001/2 and the MP4-13 were more dominant. Infact didn’t in both 2002 and 2003 Ferrari just run an updated F2001/2002 respectively and still have a competitive advantage in the first race of the season?

    But the R25 was a great car nonetheless.

  2. I agree with the article, the R25 is a good car, after all it did win both championships, but not one which will go done as an all time great in F1 history.

  3. Didn’t this car run the “orignal” mass-damper. I think that feature sent some people rushing to their CAD terminals—or, at least, the FIA. It’s banning certainly dented, if not ended, Renault’s period of dominance.

  4. It may not have been the fastest car that year, but it was definitely the best due to its reliability. If Kimi Raikkonen was against anyone other than Alonso in that Renault, then I think he could have won the title. That includes Schumacher. McLaren stood no chance to win the title after starting off slowly, and the reliability issues against Alonso, who only made one mistake that year if I recall correctly.

    Great looking car as well.

    1. By the way, did the R25 have a darker shade of blue than the R26?

    2. Yer it has to go down as one of the better looking cars…very nice car…

  5. Well, which of the “00’s-cars” do you consider an all-time great then?
    If I think about it myself it’s really hard to tell…
    Some all-time greats in the 90’s?

    1. I don’t know what criteria others would use to decide but personally for a F1 car to be considered an all time great I think it has to either be noteworthy for technology reasons, or have been totally dominant during a season.

      I confess I don’t know enough detail about the history of F1 technology to be able to nominate any cars on the first point, but in terms of success the Ferrari F2002 and F2004 should be considered in the category for 00’s cars

      The F2002

      The F2004

      I don’t know if Keith has ever done an article on cars which should be inducted into a F1 Hall of Fame (as far as I am aware nothing like a Hall of Fame exists), but I think it would be a good topic and provide plenty of debate.

  6. 2000s: 2002 Ferrari (most contructor points)
    1990s: 1992 williams ( mansel won 9 races)
    1980s: 1988 mclaren (won every race minus one in 88)
    1970s: Ferrari 312t ( multiple championships)
    1960s: lotus 49 (multiple championships)
    1950s: mercedes Benz w196 (1955 championship 1,2)

    in my opinion. :)

    1. In the 50’s, the 1959 Cooper T51.
      The design of every single championship F1 car since is a direct result of this car. Without a doubt, the car with the single biggest impact on F1.

      (For those who don’t know, it was the first rear engined car to win the world championship. It made front engines obsolete)

  7. Prettiest F1 car, hands down.

  8. I agree entirely with the last paragraph. When I saw you were doing an article on great F1 cars of the last 6 decades, the first cars that popped into my head were the MP4/4 and the F2004 or F2002. I think the Maserati 250F deserves an honorable mention as well. Hard cars to get your hands on however. However I do think this is the prettiest car from the 2000s.

    1. I was going to say the oposite, I don’t like the look of it at all. Those slits down the side do make it look like an angery shark though.

  9. And yet no votes for the BGP001? It was just as dominant as Ross Brawn’s last creation before that…the F2004!

    1. If not for the early start due to the double diffuser, it’s questionable whether it’s really better than the RB5 :)

  10. I should have expected that we will have Ferrari F2004,but I think one of the reason why the R25 is there because it was this car that broke the backbone of Ferrari in 2005.

  11. The f2002 and f2004 were the best cars of the decade. the win ratio and dominance was clear. I remember the Monzo 2004 race, where both schumi and rubens were last and second last after the first lap. And were left for dead. I recall Ron Dennis, saying the Ferrari day is done and dusted in an interview with the ITV lady. Sure enough Ferrari ran the car at full potential for the first time and Ferrari ended up finishing 1 and 2 killing the opposition. Button was in first place, hoping for his first win, when rubens and schumi drove past him on the straight as if he was standing still.

    The f2005 car was a good car from a down force and aero config, it just had **** tyres thats what killed ferrari that year. the Renault R25 was a great car 2.

  12. Not only was the R25 beautiful, but it broke the stranglehold Ferrari and Schumacher had on F1 and saved thr sport from boredom. That truly is something. Inspite of all the fanfare surrounding McLaren, Williams, Montoya, et al, it was the team from Enstone lead by a certain Spaniard called Fernando Alonso that ousted the scarlet cars from domination of a kind that hasn’t returned to date. I still remember how refreshing it was on TV to see blue on the podium after always seeing red from 2000 (when I started watching F1).

  13. I loved this car, it still looks great.

    Hopefully Renault will have a better livery this year.

  14. I love this car for its livery and that it gave Alonso first ace!
    It’s beautifull !

  15. Not nearly great. Especially with the “funny electronics” used during starts.

  16. Talk of the Renaults of the early 2000’s, and i immediately get the image of ‘fast-starting cars’… even before the 2005 season, the Renaults could give the rocket-starts, and always make-up some positions…. for me, it was a great car…

  17. The car that beat the Ferrari’s..Its a great car in my opinion, but not in the league of the Williams Renaults from 92.

    Did this car have the 110 Degree V?

  18. Nice car, had one of the best onboard sound too!

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