Renault begins its 40th Formula 1 anniversary celebrations by introducing 2017 driver Nico Hulkenberg to a 1977 RS01 and a 1983 RE40
You could forgive Nico Hulkenberg for wondering why he bothered joining the Renault Formula 1 team for 2017. Since his debut with the team in Australia, the German’s best finish in the new R.S.17 is 6th in Barcelona, while his former Force India team has already amassed 53 points.
Then again, days like the above may remind him, as Hulkenberg gets up close and moderately personal with four-time F1 champion – and current Renault ambassador – Alain Prost, a 1977 RS01 and a 1983 RE40. The above video is mostly dubbed in French, but we can assume Hulkenberg and track-mate Franck Montagny are mostly saying “bugger me, this thing is quick.”
It’s a stunt that helps kick off the 40th anniversary celebrations of Renault’s F1 debut, a four-decade campaign that started when Jean-Pierre Jabouille lined up the first ever turbocharged F1 car – the RS01 – 21st on the grid for the 1977 British Grand Prix. Given the significance of turbocharged engines in the sport today, it was a watershed moment in an era when Lotus also introduced ground effect aerodynamics to the sport: Renault’s 2-litre turbocharged V6 had taken the company to 2nd place overall at Le Mans in 1977, so the potential was there, at least.
It was not the most auspicious of starts for the RS01 though. Crippling reliability issues caused Jabouille to retire from four of the five Grand Prix he entered in 1977 (he didn’t even qualify for his last one in Canada), and by the time of the RS01 – effectively a test mule – lined up for its last race at Zolder in 1979, it had only a pole position in South Africa (’79) and a 4th place finish (Watkins Glen, ’78) to its name.
We cannot display this galleryEquipe Renault Elf would bounce back, however. The RS01’s replacement, the RS10, would take Renault’s first Grand Prix victory as a works outfit in 1978, Frenchman Jabouille fittingly taking a win on home turf at Magny-Cours aboard a French car on French tyres. The RE20 follow-up would go yet further, taking a further three wins and helping Renault secure 3rd in the Constructors’ Championship.
It would be the RE40 though that really put Renault on the map in 1983. With ground effects now banned, Renault’s fourth F1 car was built around a flat-bottomed arrangement and, in a first for the company, almost entirely from carbon fibre. At the base of the 545kg hub was the now bulletproof 1.5-litre V6 that combined with the not-so-bullet proof turbochargers to produce almost 800bhp. Despite reliability issues still raising their ugly noggins more often than not, the RE40 nevertheless took Alain Prost to within two points of the 1983 title. Renault had officially arrived in F1…