With almost five years under the French manufacturer’s belt since returning to F1, are Renault now emerging as a force of the future?
2019 was a low point for Renault since their comeback to F1 in 2016. Having secured a star driver in Daniel Ricciardo and keeping the consistent driver of Nico Hulkenberg in the other side of the garage, fifth place in the constructor’s championship was an unexpected result.
After aiming to close in on the top three teams following a strong 2018 season and finishing fourth in the constructors’, the French team dropped further away from Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull rather than closing up, with McLaren emerging as ‘best of the rest’ in fourth place in 2019 ahead of Renault.
Before the 2020 season got belatedly underway, Ricciardo announced he would be leaving the Enstone based team for McLaren in 2021, leaving Renault with a seat to fill and a sign that insufficient progress had been made to persuade the Australian to stay on with the team past his original two-year contract.
The beginning of the delayed 2020 season got off to a worrying start for Renault, with a best result of P8 in the first three rounds and only having one car feature in the top 10, after six rounds of the season the French team sat P6 in the constructors’ championship.
There were glimmers of potential for the team however, finishing P4 and P6 at round four in the British GP with Ricciardo just 1.2s off P3, this was their first double points finish since the United States GP in 2019.
Round seven of the year in Belgium signalled of change of fortunes for Renault, and that they had turned a corner towards better form, after being one of the strongest cars around the Spa circuit all weekend both cars crossed the line in P4 and P5, giving the team their best points haul of the season so far.
Since the Belgium GP, the French-based manufacturer have scored double-figure points in every race apart from the Portuguese GP, and both cars have featured in the top 10 in every race bar the Eifel GP and Emilia Romagna GP.
Renault’s charge up the field has been further cemented with Ricciardo featuring on the podium in two of the past three races, at the Nürburgring and Imola.
Having not scored a podium since their return to Formula One in 2016, two podiums in three races will certainly give Renault hope that this can become a more common occurrence in the future.
The Enstone based team currently sit in third place in the constructors’ championship, and have scored 135 points so far, 44 points more than they did when the 2019 season ended, with four rounds still to go this year.
The recent form of Renault suggests they currently have the edge over their closest competitors of McLaren and Racing Point, who sit in fourth and fifth place in the constructors’ championship on 134 points.
It will be an intriguing end to the 2020 season for Renault, and with Fernando Alonso joining the team from 2021, they may find themselves finally closing the gap on contending for the championship.