The news that Renault is to wind up its F1 team at the end of this season has come no surprise. Indeed, with the State-owned company making massive losses last year and its F1 team relegated to the position of mid-field runners this year, it is hard to see what other decision could be taken.
One would have to be xenophobic to say goodbye to the team with any pleasure. For a major motor manufacturer to risk its reputation by entering Formula One at all is courageous and to do so while designing both chassis and engine is even more so and something which previously only Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz and Honda had done in the post-war era. What made Renault’s effort even more creditable was not just that the team enjoyed several seasons of success but was done with a new form of technology, the turbo-charged engine.
Despite the fact that both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships eluded Renault, though Prost came so near to the title in 1983, it changed the face of the sport. Not only have we now an exclusively turbocharged formula but, unlike most successful manufacturers, Renault has made its engines available to other teams. While it may have been politic to supply Ligier, supplying Lotus and Tyrrell came with no strings, such as the insistence that French drivers must be employed. We might remember, too, that Renault did not necessarily take a chauvinist line when selecting its own drivers, as Derek Warwick has proved.
Formula One has been enriched by the presence of Renault and we feel that if ever a team morally deserved to take a championship, Renault is that team. There is little room for sentiment in F1 however, and the hard truth is that even though Renault enjoyed great success in the period 1980-83, the team was bogged down by bureaucracy (a word which is French in origin) and decision-taking by committee, and these have no place in motor racing. Had Renault been run on the lines of McLaren or Williams it would have been invincible — but then much the same could be said of Ferrari.
Even though the works team is shortly to fold, Renault engines will continue to be supplied to other teams so the possibility of a Renault engine powering a driver or team to a World Championship still remains. Whether or not that happens, the company leaves F1 a completely different scene from that which existed in July 1977 when, at Silverstone, Jabouille debuted the world’s first turbocharged F1 car.