Formula 1: Renault launch 2006 campaign in Monaco

A low-key unveiling out in the garage just won't do if you're the reigning world champions. No, you need a high-profile venue and all the glitz you can muster. Fortunately, Renault F1 were up to the task, as the smiling faces above will tell you. (Going from left to right, that's Heikki Kovaleinen, Patrick Faure, Fernando Alonso, Flavio Briatore and Giancarlo Fisichella.) More after the jump!

Even though their new R26 (pictured above) has already been testing on-track, Renault threw a huge event in Monte-Carlo today to mark the start of their world title defence. For those of us who weren't able to get to Monaco, the team also re-launched their website, with complete coverage of the launch here. It may not be as much fun as being in Monte-Carlo, but it's pretty cool, nonetheless. And in an F1 first, the website features (wait for it...) a blog! Yes, the super-secret world of F1 has its first blog.

The launch coverage includes lots of information on the new R26 and its RS26 V8 engine, including an audio track comparing the sound of the V8 to its V10 predecessor. (Believe me, the sound of the V8 alone is worth a trip to the website.)

Oh, and there was actual news at the launch party, too. Renault President and CEO Carlos Ghosn stated in an interview that Renault were in F1 for the long haul, laying to rest rumors that the F1 enterprise would be axed in Ghosn's Renault restructuring plan, due out next week.

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