Unveiled at the first group test of the year in Valencia, the Renault R30 was shown to the world with the backdrop of a pitlane and two new drivers to the team sitting on the wheels. Renault have endured a difficult few years, all starting when Fernando Alonso decided to switch allegiances for 2007 and leave the team after conquering the championships in style. A return in 2008 saw performance improve a little, but the scandal involving Nelson Piquet Jr. which came to light last year has put a dark cloud over one of the sport’s older and once respected marques.
Perhaps then, 2010 will mark a new chapter in Renault’s history, with promoted personnel at the Enstone-based team and two new drivers taking to the cockpits. BMW-refugee Robert Kubica will take to the first R30 while rookie Vitaly Petrov will debut in the second. With a new team boss at the helm as well as new investors taking over much of the ownership of the squad, Renault need to put the past behind them and move forward.
Upon first glance at Renault’s 2010 challenger, the most striking and obvious difference is the livery. Erm, it’s yellow. Very yellow. The team, lacking in sponsors following the mass walk-out last year, have decided to return to the colour scheme of old and have coated the R30 in the team’s classic war paint. Combined with the black the new car is reminiscent of the originals, dating back to 1977. The team, to mark their 30th anniversary in 2007, did paint a modern RenaultF1 in similar colours, and the scheme was much applauded the world over. It would seem as though the team were listening.
The new livery adorning the R30 though, has divided fans this time around. Although striking, the inclusion of fuel partner Total’s red on the mirrors and front and rear wings makes the car seem a little odd. One thing is for certain though, the machine will stand out among the others, just as they always seem to. And I have to be honest and say the livery is far, far better than the vomit-inducing R29 scheme. The least said about that the better, I think.
Moving on to the actual machine, the R30 seems quite different. The front section has seen a lot of work and like so many others that have been launched over the past month or so, the nose is more compact, rides higher than before and seems much tighter. The front view does indicate a wide nose though, which is similar to its predecessor. Like the McLaren MP4-25, the bridge section that goes over the top of the monocoque and towards the cockpit has no Newey-dip, and also in similar fashion to the McLaren, the engine cover sports a shark-fin.
The sidepods have been made a little smaller and show the distinct cut-away that they and McLaren had last year, in essence shaping the driver’s right sidepod into a number 7 shape (and obviously reversed for the right). And although it is hard to tell from the studio photographs supplied by Renault, the car doesn’t appear to be much longer. The Ferrari and McLaren before it definitely appeared to have a longer wheelbase, probably to accommodate the increased size of the fuel tank. If the R30 isn’t as long as it’s rivals, this would indicate an efficient engine, meaning the car can run with less fuel, and therefore should be faster. Although it is likely that all machines will be brought up to the minimum weight with ballast, the more ballast there is to play with, the more optimum the setup can be.
Regarding the drivers, Robert Kubica should be a safe bet although the Polish pilot does have a different style to those who steered Renault’s previous machines. Kubica is happy with a car that he can wrestle into the corners, and although Alonso before him was okay with a darting back-end, Kubica’s driving nature is still something the team will have to work into the car and the way it handles.
On the other side of the garage sits a rookie, and for the first time in his career, Kubica will have to take on the experienced team leader role. Vitaly Petrov comes to Formula One with a less than impressive record, only taking 3rd in the 2008 winter’s GP2 Asia series which was immediately followed by a 2nd place in the 2009 summer’s GP2 series. Petrov claimed a couple of poles and couple of wins but was soundly beaten by Nico Hulkenberg, who also finds himself in Formula One this year, with the Williams team.
One further thought I should add here, is that Renault didn’t really confirm Petrov as the team’s second driver until after the car was launched and the drivers paraded around in front of it. This implies the team were still debating who should get the second seat right up until the final moment, which is further backed up by the fact that Petrov is wearing unnamed overalls. Unlike Kubica who was confirmed late last year, Vitaly noticeably doesn’t have his name embroidered on his race suit. I wonder if Renault are still debating this issue…?
Renault’s car designation system refers to the team name, Renault, and an incremental numbering system that for 2010, has reached 30. Hence, R30.
It’s worth mentioning here that Petrov is just as, if not slightly taller than Kubica. And Robert is one of the sport’s tallest drivers. Which begs the question, how did Renault create what appears to be one of the shorter cars with two of the tallest drivers?