The Renault Formula 1 team have officially launched their 2010 contender in Valencia, Spain, in advance of the first official test session which will open there tomorrow. The new car appears to be an evolution of last year’s R29. The R30 looks sleeker and less ungainly than its notorious predecessor, which Renault lead driver Ferando Alonso at one point derided as being the worst car on the grid.
While the new car doesn’t appear to be a radical departure from last year’s design, appearances can be deceiving. Nevertheless, many onlookers have wondered about the development continuity of the new car, given the turmoil the team was was forced to weather last year.
For one thing, Renault was embroiled in the Crashgate scandal last year, which resulted in the sacking of their team princpal (Flavio Briatore) and their director of engineering (Pat Symonds) before the season’s close, as well as the loss of their title sponsor, ING. For another, Renault sold an 80% equity stake in the firm to the private venture capital firm, Genii, based in Luxembourg. Either one of these events might have been enough to stall progress on the new car, but both combined would certainly seem to present a challenge.
Nevertheless, the new team principal is putting a good face on Renault’s prospects for the coming season. As reported in Autosport, new team boss Eric Boullier said, “With a new structure in place, new drivers, and new colours, there is a lot to be excited about and a lot to look forward to in the year ahead. Setting objectives is never easy, but it’s clear that we have high ambitions for 2010 as we aim to take Renault back to the front of the grid.”
Bouillier went on to express his confidence in the development of the R30: “The R30 should be a competitive, strong and reliable car and we’ve opted for an aggressive development strategy. The factories in Enstone and Viry have been working flat-out during the long winter months to ensure that we begin the new season in the best shape possible. These factories have been successful in the past and they haven’t forgotten how to win in Formula 1.”
Since Renault acquired their team from Benetton in 2000, the team’s car liveries have been generally dictated by sponsors’ brand colors. This year, however, the team is returning to Renault’s traditional color scheme, which is predominantly yellow, with black and white highlights. While this motif recalls the early Renaults that debuted in 1978, it might be more a reflection of the fact that, for the first time in a decade, the team has no visible title sponsor. Although the side plates of the R30’s front and rear wings feature the brand of French oil company total, the car’s sidepods, usually reserved for a team’s marquee sponsors, are bare.
Also at the launch, the team’s second driver was finally announced. Lead driver Robert Kubica will be partnered by Russian driver Vitaly Petrov. The revelation of the second driver has been long delayed, and considering that Renault is now essentially a privateer team, and obviously in the hunt for additional commercial funding, one wonders if Petrov is a pay-to-play driver, bringing personal sponsorship to the team. Petrov was last year’s runner-up in the GP2 championship. He will become the first Russian driver in Formula 1.
(Image source: RenaultF1TeamTV)