Renault F1 fell off their form last year. After winning two back-to-back world titles, they finished third in the constructors' championship, behind erstwhile perennial mid-fielder BMW Sauber – and that was after McLaren was disqualified. Now they've got their golden boy Fernando Alonso back, joined by Nelson Piquet Jr., the heir and namesake of the 80's-era three-time world champion. This is the year in which Renault hopes to return to the top step of the podium (or to the podium altogether – they only got there once last season). And this is the car in which they hope to pull it off.
The new R28 was unveiled in Paris today (together with the new Twingo Renaultsport) after four days and 1500km of testing in Valencia, Spain. Like all of its competitors, Renault's engineers had to incorporate the latest technical regulations that mandate a standardized engine control unit, without traction control, and a transmission that now has to last several races, while engine development remains frozen. So the bulk of the development rests on aerodynamics and suspension. Renault says the new R28 was a more complete redesign from last year's model, which evolved from the one before that. They've incorporated a zero-keel suspension mounting, and a set-up designed to take better advantage of the standardized Bridgestone tires introduced last year.
Citing improved sales figures for their road cars in Western Europe, Renault reiterated the value which it feels the enormous investment of operating a competitive Formula One team presents to its marketing efforts. You can read more in the full press release after the jump, and check out the pretty pictures of the new R28 in the gallery below.
Related Gallery2008 Renault R28
ING Renault F1 Team kicks off 2008 with Paris launch
The ING Renault F1 Team today officially launched its 2008 season as it revealed the
brand new Renault F1 R28 and its driver line-up at Renault's communications
headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt, on the banks of the Seine in south-west Paris.
The ceremony was attended by Renault President and CEO Carlos Ghosn, along with
500 media and VIP guests from around the world, including Michel Tilmant, Chairman of
the Executive Board of ING Group, the team announced its determination to return to the
front of the F1 field in 2008, thanks to a combination of aggressive design concepts in the
new car, and the talents of the sport's only active double world champion, Fernando
Alonso, allied to rookie Nelson Piquet.
ING Renault F1 Team President Bernard Rey explained that the team had set itself
demanding targets for the new season. "We expect to see the team back in its normal
place, fighting at the front of the field," explained Rey. "This is the target the team has set
for the new car. On the technical side, everybody has worked hard to overcome the
problems encountered last year. On the driver front, Fernando Alonso's return was an
important boost. There is optimism inside the team and within Renault."
Rey also reinforced the value of the Formula 1 programme to the Renault Group, as a
pillar of the company's global sales and marketing strategies. "Formula 1 is a powerful
tool for building brand awareness in non-traditional markets, and Renault's sales outside
Western Europe grew by 16.5% in 2007" he concluded. "Our status as a leading team
demonstrates Renault can build vehicles that deliver performance, reliability and high
technology. From an overall perspective, Formula 1 is a meaningful and profitable
investment for Renault."
R28: blending new solutions and proven technology
The ING Renault F1 Team's hopes for the 2008 reason rest on the all-new Renault F1
R28. The car ran for the first time last week in Valencia, on Monday 21 January. During
the four-day test, the car completed over 1500 km, indicating strong early reliability in
spite of numerous changes to the 2008 technical regulations, including the introduction of
the Standard ECU and long-life gearboxes. The team also made encouraging progress
with set-up and performance development, allowing the car's debut to be judged as
The new car represents a shift in design philosophy from its predecessor, in order to
extract optimum performance from the Bridgestone tyres that all competitors have used
since the start of 2007. The new car features revised weight distribution and a new
aerodynamic concept to match, which has been enabled by the introduction of a "zerokeel"
front suspension mounting. The monocoque and bodywork to improve the
packaging of the car's mechanical systems while under the skin, the SECU and new
gearbox represent the biggest changes. As with all new designs, the team has worked
hard to improve stiffness and remove weight throughout the car, to provide maximum setup
adjustability from circuit to circuit.
Technical Director Bob Bell labelled the car "much less evolutionary" than its
predecessor, continuing: "2007 was a very poor year by our standards. For 2008, there
are high expectations inside and outside the team, and it is down to us to give the drivers
a competitive car. We have put the problems from 2007 behind us and in terms of the car
design, we have looked at the problem afresh. The team pushed very hard in all areas,
and particularly on the aerodynamics. The front end of the car has come in for special
attention with a brand new front wing and the front suspension. The rear end has also
been heavily reworked, and we haven't neglected the basics. The car ran reliably in its
first test, and we made encouraging progress on performance development last week.
We are confident that the advances we have seen in the wind tunnel will be reflected on
The car will once again be powered by the RS27 V8 engine, which remains substantially
the same as last year's unit, given the engine homologation rules currently in force.
Engine ancillaries must be homologated by the first race of the year, while the team has
also had a heavy workload adapting to the demands of the SECU.
"The transition to the SECU was a big workload, and remains so," explained Deputy
Managing Director (Engines), Rob White. "The unit itself is the most obvious change for
the new season, but there are many new software tools and programmes that
accompany it. We have had to adapt to them all, and learn how to get the most from
them. While we are not allowed to develop the engine itself, there remains much to do to
assure its reliability in-car performance. These V8's remain complicated and
sophisticated, and we must be vigilant about component supply and quality, and
concerning changes in the way the engine is used in the car. We are determined to return
to the front, and we have worked tirelessly towards this goal for many months."
Back to the future
The ING Renault F1 Team's race drivers for 2008 will be double world champion
Fernando Alonso and rookie Nelson Piquet. Alonso returns 'home' to the team where he
won his two world titles after a sabbatical season with rivals McLaren-Mercedes, and has
already reacclimatised to life at Renault. He has tested twice with the team this month,
setting fastest time at the recent Jerez test with the old R27, before beginning the initial
on-track development of the R28 last week in Valencia. The Spaniard scored 15 of his 19
career wins with Renault, and is the only man to have finished in the world championship
top three over the past three seasons.
"The entire team is absolutely determined to get back to the top, they are pushing very
hard and that is a big motivation for me," commented the 26 year old Spaniard. "First and
foremost, I am a racer, and I obviously want to win. I will do my maximum to make that
happen, and I know that is what is expected from me. Some people have suggested that
I have unfinished business from 2007, but that's not the way I look at it. I am preparing for
this season the same way I always have done: by concentrating on my job. My first
feeling with the car was good and the team is working incredibly hard. It looks
encouraging at the moment."
Nelson Piquet will partner Alonso in his debut Formula 1 season, as another famous
name returns to the sport. While Nelsinho may carry a famous name, he is determined to
make his own mark in F1, and to build on the experience he gained last year as test
driver for the ING Renault F1 Team. The 2006 GP2 series runner-up was also the
youngest ever British F3 champion during his junior career, and the 22 year old Brazilian
will now look to confirm his potential at the highest level.
"Melbourne still seems a long way off to me," commented Nelsinho. "We have a lot of
work to do beforehand, and I am focused on the next test sessions and our development
programme. That will help me improve my physical condition too, because driving is
always the best preparation; and I can continue learning to make sure I am ready for my
first Grand Prix. My aim this year is to get the maximum out of the package, and to do a
good job for the team. There will be a lot to learn and I not underestimating the challenge
of Formula 1."
The race driver pairing will be aided in their test and development work by third driver
Lucas di Grassi, runner-up in the 2007 GP2 series championship, and test driver Romain
Grosjean, who will also compete in the 2008 GP2 series with ART Grand Prix. 23 year
old Brazilian di Grassi will conduct the majority of the team's development work alongside
Fernando and Nelsinho, while Grosjean will get his first taste of F1 at a number of tests
during the year. The 21 year old Swiss-born Frenchman has already made a flying start
to his season in GP2, taking a double victory in the opening rounds of the GP2 Asia
championship last weekend.
A stronger team at every level
The ING Renault F1 Team enters the 2008 season in rude health, following substantial
technology investments by Renault SA during 2007 and the acquisition of new
commercial partners for 2008. The CFD centre of excellence is currently under
construction at Enstone, and will be operational by the second half of 2008. The facility
will provide cutting-edge development resources for the team and also for the
development of more efficient road cars in future Renault ranges. Coupled to a stable
technical team with a proven track record, the outlook for the new season is positive.
"We have the strength in depth to overcome our disappointments," concluded Managing
Director Flavio Briatore. "Renault has invested for the future at Enstone, especially with
the new CFD Centre, which gives us the stability we need to move forward. The new car
is a change in direction for the team, and we have been aggressive with the concept.
When you add in Fernando's ability to lead the team on the track, it is a powerful
combination. Remember, in 2007 we finished third in the championship with a bad car,
that we did not develop for half of the season. For 2008, we have a good car – and a
world champion driver. The situation looks promising."