What is happening to Renault in Formula 1?
Nearly five years into its return as a full-blown factory team, the French giant was supposed to be a world title contender by now. Instead, it languishes fifth in the constructors’ standings, one place lower than this time last year and far behind McLaren, a Renault customer which pays to use its hybrid engine – but not for much longer. At the Russian Grand Prix, the rejuvenated Woking team announced it will abandon Renault power in favour of Mercedes next year, leaving the works cars as lone representatives in 2020.
It’s all a long way from the glory days of powering Red Bull to four consecutive titles between 2010-13, never mind the twin crowns of Fernando Alonso in 2005-06. Renault has a rich history in F1 since the late 1970s, but that timeline is not continuous and includes periods as an engine supplier only. Such was the case with Red Bull, a partnership that was tense even at its height.
Renault never enjoyed the credit it deserved for those titles and also missed out on a cut of F1’s vast revenues. Lacking the clout of Mercedes and Ferrari, in 2015 it bought back the Enstone-based team it had previously sold and committed to becoming a true F1 force once again.