In the year 1977, Renault entered the foray of the Formula One (F1) World Championship. In a season where every other constructor was using a 3.0-litre high-revving naturally aspirated title, the newly formed racing team took the F1 scene by storm with their RS01 race car powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged V6 – the first ever F1 car to feature turbocharging technology.
The 1.5-litre engine was nicknamed “Yellow Teapot” not because of its resemblance to a yellow teapot but because it was susceptible to engine blows and was notoriously unreliable. But that did not discourage the French automaker. The team continued pouring resources into research and development and only first saw the fruits of their labour in the 1978 United States Grand Prix where Jean-Pierre Jabouille snatched fourth place with the RS01. By then, no one was laughing at the Yellow Teapot.
Soon, other manufacturers began adopting turbocharging technology in their race car, but Renault has already progressed to twin-turbocharging at the 1979 Monaco Grand Prix after overcoming the critical problem of turbo lag. In the same year, Jabouille clinched Renault’s first ever victory at the French Grand Prix thanks to the new twin-turbo set and an all-new chassis design for the RS11 race car.
Fast forward to 2014, F1 had employed strict emission regulations which limits the permitted fuel quantity per race to 100 kg, 35 percent lesser than what the V8s used to have. Renault came out with an innovative solution by revisiting the old engine design – a 760 hp 1.6-litre V6 hybrid powerplant.
With over 600 races, 11 Driver’s titles, 12 Constructor’s crowns and no fewer than 168 grand prix victories over the past four decades, what has the 118-year old French carmaker learnt from its involvement in F1 that can be applied to its volume sellers?
For starters, engineers have applied their analytical skills in F1 to explore new technical solutions for their production models. This approach has led to many innovations in the area of turbocharging, downsizing, direct fuel injection, friction reduction as well as ride and handling.
As the first manufacturer to feature a turbocharged engine in F1 races, Renault was able to effectively produce efficient small capacity engines with high power outputs. Turbocharging is featured not only in the marquees high-performance cars like Megane R.S., but also in mainstream runabout vehicles like the Captur crossover and Clio.
Another prime example of trickled down technology from F1 is the recently unveiled fourth-generation Megane R.S. – packing an all-new 1.8-litre direct injection, turbocharged four-cylinder that dishes out 280 hp and 390 Nm of twisting force. Those crazy output figures are owed to the innovations learnt from F1.
4CONTROL four-wheel steering and aerodynamics are among the technologies inspired from Renault’s experience in F1. As such, Renault’s customers can directly benefit from technologies developed in the world motorsport.
Moving forward, Renault has envisioned what racing cars might look like in the year 2027 with the R.S. 2027 vision. Imagining a future with a more human-centric championship, more spectacular show, safer ultra-high-performance racing and an even more environmentally-friendly Formula One.
Renault’s road vehicles have a strong intertwined connection to Renault’s involvement in Formula One. Four decades of F1 had given birth to not only a strong portfolio of sports cars under the Renault Sport range, but also a range of dynamic mass market vehicles. So the next time you’re in a Renault vehicle, take note and experience the innovations and technologies that have went into the car.