Renault had good reason to set their sights low in 2016

2016 F1 season review

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When the covers came off the first true Renault F1 car for seven years at the beginning of 2016, the team’s expectations were startlingly low.

Podium finishes would not be a possibility until 2018 they projected, despite appearing on the rostrum as recently as Spa 2015 in their Lotus-Mercedes incarnation.

Renault team stats 2016

Best race result (number) 7 (1)
Best grid position (number) 12 (1)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 9 (4/5)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,038 (80.3%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2015) 9 (6)
Championship points (2015) 8 (78)
Pit stop performance ranking 7

It soon became clear that their caution was well-founded. This was, after all, a team which had a winding-up order in the middle of last season. The Enstone base had long been starved of investment.

As a result the 2016 car was woefully under-developed. “The RS16 was conceived in an unbelievably short timeframe – literally a couple of weeks,” explained managing director Cyril Abiteboul “so our focus for this year has been on expansion of headcount and infrastructure and looking to next year and beyond”. The workforce has expanded by 20% in the past 12 months.

Meanwhile the improving Renault engine powered Red Bull to two victories during the season. As Renault only made it into the points on three occasions it could not have been more obvious that the shortcomings lay in the RS16 chassis .

Its chronic lack of downforce was amplified by reliability problems. One of these proved especially alarming: Magnussen’s fire at Sepang. Practice was interrupted for around a quarter of an hour while his RS16 belched fuel onto itself and repeatedly reignited.

Despite these problems Renault have shown they are serious. Major technical and managerial appointments were made, though questions persisted over exactly how they all fitted together. The replacement of Pastor Maldonado with Kevin Magnussen added credibility to their driver line-up, and rookie Jolyon Palmer fared better than expected in his debut season.

Magnussen did not stick around, however, preferring to follow Romain Grosjean in leaving the team for Haas. Nico Hulkenberg leapt at the chance to join a manufacturer-backed team.

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While Grosjean’s move has been vindicated in the short-term, next year will be fascinating. To illustrate the scale of the deficit Renault has to turn around, they were further off Mercedes’ pace this year than McLaren were 12 months ago.

But as much of that missing time should be found in the chassis, their progress should be more rapid in 2017. “We will be in a far better position to fight for more points next season,” vowed team boss Frederic Vasseur.

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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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10 comments on “Renault had good reason to set their sights low in 2016”

  1. Yeah, it really did get very close to the end at Enstone.

    1. Very interesting, didn’t realise things got that bad. Good video

  2. A year of rebuilding for them after the financial worries of Lotus.
    Might be one of the pleasant surprises in 2017 since it was clear this year was a write-off.
    Expecting big things from the Hulk that he will be able to make them a decent midfield runner before making that final step to winning races.

    1. Olivier Prevot
      20th December 2016, 23:05

      I totally agree. I think this year was about getting the process in place for next year. This isn’t their first rodeo, Renault could be the surprise of the 2017 season.

  3. Main problem this year is they had a car built for a Mercedes engine using a Renault engine.

    1. car built for the wrong engine proved not to be a huge problem for the Brawn team, their biggest issue was lack of funds for further ongoing development through the season.
      That year Button beat Sebastian Vettel by 11 points which was a race win and 8th place in old points system.

      1. The engines are more complicated now though. While the mounting points are mandated by the rules, packaging is different between the PUs, and they have different cooling requirements. The V8s were all slightly different in that regard as well, but there was less to do. Once the hybrids came in, it was no longer a question of how big your sidepod inlets are, but where do you put all of the cooling equipment? There wasn’t a turbo generating heat, KERS didn’t require as much cooling, the batteries were smaller, there weren’t intercoolers to find a place for and route the plumbing for, etc.

  4. Main problem was bad manegement!

    Both drivers performed excellent in a problematic car build too late with lack of parts in the end season…

  5. The longer the takeover dragged, the worse their chances got… the car was designed and built by a team with no money and once they lost the automatic performance boost of a Mercedes engine, they were always going to be struggling for points.

  6. What was Alonso’s salary when he drove for Renault?

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