When the name of the Renault to the reality of Formula 1, the memories of fans are almost automatically associated with the great technical innovations made by the French company in the Circus, rather than the repeated successes as an engineer or, again, the victories achieved with Fernando Alonso in the mid-early years 2000. Despite the prestige of such a famous brand also in terms of car manufacturer, combined with its particular history in Formula 1, Renault was awarded “only” two manufacturer titles and drivers during his long experience in the top flight, managing, in both cases, to subvert the dominance of Ferrari of that period thanks to the victories of the aforementioned Alonso.
Triumphs that came after a long absence from the paddock as a team, which made its absolute debut at the end of the 70s, and more precisely in the 1977. In addition to distinguishing itself on the track with a single-seater with an unmistakable yellow-black livery – initially driven only by drivers of French nationality – Renault immediately launched a new era thanks to the development of the turbo engine, then led to success in a French GP 1979 which also went down in history for the famous duel between Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux on the Dijon circuit. A novelty that bore fruit in the early 1980s, so much so that it nearly won the constructors’ championship in 1983, finishing second after two third consecutive places obtained in previous seasons. However, from 1986, Renault left the circus as a manufacturer, devoting himself only to the activity of motorist and writing indelible pages of Formula 1, particularly in the 90s.
The real return of the transalpine house as a team then occurred in 2002, thanks to the acquisition of a former customer team with which he won, again as an engineer, a constructors’ title in 1995: Benetton. Over a period that lasted from 2000 to 2004, the goal was the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher, capable of winning five consecutive drivers ‘and constructors’ titles at the very beginning of the twenty-first century. After a return to victory with Alonso in the 2003 Hungarian GP, Renault laid the foundations to launch the offensive at the Maranello company, doing so with Flavio Briatore in the role of team principal and with Fernando Alonso as the first driver, in turn supported by an Italian teammate: after Jarno Trulli, who remained until 2004, the team based in Enstone in fact hired the Roman Giancarlo Fisichella.
It was the latter who won the first appointment of the 2005 season in Australia, an event that also underlined a drastic drop in the performance of the reigning champion Ferrari. After a long period of unbeaten and leadership, the prancing Horse in fact he found a significant loss of competitiveness on the occasion of that championship, never managing to seriously enter the fight to defend his title. On the contrary, after Fisichella’s success in Melbourne, Renault managed to maintain a high level, this time with Fernando Alonso. The Asturian climbed to the top step of the podium on five occasions before the final appointment in China, graduating World Champion for the first time in his career – the first and still the only Spaniard to have succeeded in such a feat – in Brazil. After a long and exciting challenge with the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen, the Iberian also gave the first drivers title for Renault.
To complete the work, the French company found itself at the last round of the championship, valid for Chinese Grand Prix, with the possibility of establishing himself as world constructors champion. The October 16, 2005, exactly sixteen years ago, Alonso continued his golden moment by winning the pole position, then keeping the lead up to the checkered flag, thus climbing for the sixth time on the top step of the podium. Behind him, Fisichella’s second Renault finished in fourth place, with Raikkonen trying to keep the championship challenge open by chasing Alonso. The fight between the two teams decidedly took the path of Enstone on lap 24, when the second McLaren’s Juan Pablo Montoya she was forced to retire due to engine problems. Thanks to this episode and the final standings in Shanghai, Renault won the first constructors’ title in its history. The double obtained in 2005 was repeated, albeit with greater difficulties, also in 2006. From that moment on, neither Alonso nor Renault will be able to reassert themselves in their respective championships, with the team leaving the stage for the second time in its history, in 2012. Then returning in 2016 after having acquired Lotus, the transalpine team continues today its adventure in the top flight under the banner ofAlpine, adopted right from this season and, again, with Alonso at the helm.