As a new season of Formula 1 edges ever nearer, it’s that time of year when the dust sheets get peeled away to reveal a brand new generation of elite racing cars.
One of the first inductees into ‘the class of 2016’ is Renault’s new F1 challenger, revealed this week by the French brand who return to the fray as a factory team after a five year hiatus. Going by the chassis code R.S.16, the all new Renault Sport Formula 1 car has been developed and manufactured at the company’s existing technology centre at Enstone, headquarters of the Lotus F1 team since Renault’s withdrawal in 2011. Production of the all-important R.E.16 hybrid powertrain, which will exclusively underpin Renault’s own car in 2016, will continue over in France at the Viry-Châtillon engine development facility.
The make-up of the newly formed Renault Sport Formula 1 team has also been revealed, including an all-new driver line-up after former Lotus pilot Romain Grosjean jumped ship to fellow new-arrivals Haas F1. The Frenchman’s seat is taken by Britain’s Jolyon Palmer, an F1 rookie who steps up from his role as Lotus F1 test driver in 2015. There is no seat for Grosjean’s 2015 teammate Pastor Maldonado, with the veteran of 95 Grand Prix replaced by ex-McLaren star Kevin Magnussen. Bob Bell will return to the helm of the ship as Chief Technical Officer. The Northern Irishman led Renault’s previous foray into F1 and is largely credited with the team’s championship winning success during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Bell most recently served as Technical Director at Mercedes GP from 2011-2014.
The new black and yellow livery evokes memories of the 2010 R30 car, piloted by the likes of Vitaly Petrov and Robert Kubica, although for the 2016 season it’s the darker shade that dominates. The livery will be adorned with sponsors such as long-time Renault motorsport partners Total and Infiniti cars, with the Japanese brand spearheading a technology program to develop the second generation of ERS energy recovery systems for the F1 power unit.
The French manufacturer’s F1 comeback forms the cornerstone of its global motorsport strategy for 2016 which also encompasses racing activities in various top-level international series such as Formula E and the Clio Cup.
Testing ahead of the 2016 F1 season is gets underway in Barcelona from 22-25 February before the curtains come down at the opening race of year in Melbourne on 20 March.