“We are not in Formula One out of habit or tradition. We’re here to show our talent and that we can do it properly… Formula One is a cost if you don’t get the results. Formula One is an investment if you do have them and know how to exploit them” – Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn at the 2005 French Grand Prix.
Renault motor sport has ended 2005 on a high – the company has the worlds top Formula 1 racing driver in Fernando Alonso, as well as the constructors championship.
But, winning the two championships will not be enough once the feeling of euphoria is replaced by reality the millions of dollars invested in the Renault Formula 1 team will have to start translating into greater market share.
Renault executives have said publicly that the real objective of the companys participation in Formula 1 is to turn this success into a tool for enhancing the image and awareness of the Renault brand.
The companys web site proclaims Formula 1 is continuing its global expansion, and this is strengthening Renault’s commitment to the sport. Formula 1 is a major priority for Renault: the technology developed by the Renault F1 Team is already inspiring vehicles in the range, and producing clear benefits by raising the brand’s profile.
So whats at stake in the months ahead? Renault F1 Team President Patrick Faure explains. Our titles have been won by an international team with a French heart. It is a fantastic advertisement for French engineering excellence that will accompany Renault in its expansion around the globe. Now, we must exploit these titles at every level of the company. The hardest work has been done in winning the championship, and now we need to move to the next stage, initially in our communication but then at the tens and thousands of Renault points of sale around the globe, to explain our success to our customers and reflect the enhanced image Formula 1 success has brought. Success is not an end in itself, merely a beginning
But, if Renaults marketing campaigns are to be founded on Formula 1 record, then the company had better keep winning.
As the chassis race team returned to Enstone, and brought the 2005 season to a close with a well-earned celebration, technicians began laying up carbon fiber plies in the moulds of the R26. Formula 1 never sleeps, and the transition was immediate. Whats more, it carries a powerful message: there is never time to rest on your laurels. So just as the team must continue moving forward, so too the focus of its management is now firmly on the future.
We can absolutely repeat our success in 2006, says Bob Bell, Technical Director at Enstone. We have no intention of making the same errors as some other teams have made in the past. There is no arrogance about our position, and we never take anything for granted. I think that happened to Ferrari at the start of this season, while McLaren clearly underestimated us at the end. But that wont be our attitude next year. Our objectives will be set, and it will be a question of hard work to ensure we deliver them.
New silverware on the mantelpiece
For a long time there was a solitary trophy in the main corridor at Enstone. It sat unobtrusively at the entrance to the design office, the factorys nerve centre, in a simple Perspex case. Yet it was also the holy grail: the World Constructors Championship trophy from 1995, the sole occasion Renaults predecessors, Benetton, won the crown.
Ten years on, though, it will have to get used to some company One man who has lived through the decade that separates the two wins is Pat Symonds, then race engineer to Michael Schumacher, and now Executive Director of Engineering. So whats changed? We are all a lot older! he jokes. I think the real difference is the scale. At the end of 1995, when we won the championship, we had 227 people. The engine was, appropriately, supplied to us by Renault Sport, along with support staff to run it at the races, but it essentially arrived in a box.
Fast forward to 2005, and we have just crossed the threshold of 500 people in Enstone, and there are another 250 at Viry. In 1995, we had a dominant season, but 2005 has been much harder, and those 800 people are what has allowed us to push the development all the way. In the final three races, we had suspension modifications, chassis improvements, a big aero upgrade and the engine in China. It was a complete effort at every level, and every one of those 800 people has played their part. What hasnt changed is the sheer satisfaction of winning. This is the title that represents the whole team effort. In 10, 20 or 30 years time, the satisfaction of winning will still be there.
One last roar
As the cars returned to the garage after the Chinese Grand Prix victory celebrations, an old ritual was performed. The garage lights were turned off, the team massed around Fernandos car. And then it happened: the engine ticked over, fired, and for one last time, a championship-winning V10 reverberated around a Renault garage as engine mechanic Christophe Niot played with the joystick, the engine sang up to 18,500 rpm. And it wasnt just for Renaults benefit: mechanics from Williams, Red Bull, McLaren, BAR and others crowded in and around the teams garage to get a closer look.
Head of Engine Operations Denis Chevrier takes up the story – We wanted to observe our own small tradition, to listen to the engine for one last time. A static car can never transmit the emotion that goes into our work, so to see it running in the garage at racing speeds shows people that the engine isnt just cold technology, it lives, it breathes, and it is born out of our passion. And to see our friends and rivals join with us for the moment was perfect. It was a communion of our shared passion: some teams have had good seasons, others not, but we are all there for the same thing, and we all share the same enthusiasm for going racing. There is a long winter ahead for everybody, but you have to know when to make the most of the moment. We did that, and gave the engine a fitting tribute.
And thus, the V10 era closes. Renault introduced the engine in 1989, developed it to championship winning competitiveness from 1992 to 1997, and then returned to do it again. 85 race wins, seven constructors titles and six drivers world championship.