One team, several identities… but a Formula 1 institution has become Renault again | writer Peter Higham
Now back in the guise of Renault, the Enstone-based team is entering its 36th season since Toleman graduated to F1 in 1981. Reigning F2 champion Toleman struggled during that maiden campaign, Brian Henton and Derek Warwick qualifying the TG181-Hart just once each.
Warwick scored the team’s first points in 1983 and Ayrton Senna its first podiums a year later. Principal Ted Toleman sold out to sponsor Benetton in 1985 and Gerhard Berger scored the team’s first F1 win in Mexico, 1986. New boss Flavio Briatore signed newcomer Michael Schumacher late in 1991 and the German helped turn the team (which had moved from Witney to its current home) into a title challenger, taking back-to-back championships in 1994-95.
Benetton sold the team to Renault in 2000 and it was renamed from 2002, promising test driver Fernando Alonso being promoted to a race seat a year later. He lifted the F1 title in 2005 and 2006.
Alonso spent a single, turbulent season with McLaren before returning to Enstone. He won twice in 2008, a campaign tarnished by the ‘crashgate’ controversy – Nelson Piquet Jr having hit the wall deliberately to help the team win in Singapore.
That led to personnel changes. Renault later sold up to Genii Capital, which renamed the team Lotus from 2012 and adopted the famous black-and-gold livery of yore. Kimi Räikkönen won a couple of GPs, but recent seasons were marred by mounting debts and economic struggle prior to Renault’s return.