300 races, 19 seasons and 35 race victories amassed by talents such as Rene Arnoux, Alain Prost and Fernando Alonso, amounting to two drivers titles both claimed by the latter. Renault is a works team with an illustrious history and with us F1 fans being a nostalgic bunch, their return to the grid in 2016 is significant.
Now back at the Enstone base where they enjoyed title success in 2005 and 2006, the French marque will hope that they can rekindle that achievement over a stint in the sport which will span until 2024 at least.
Following a tortuous 2014 driving an E22 which was notoriously unpredictable, both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado were hopeful that 2015 would see Enstone return to the upper echelon of the field. While the successor to last season’s twin-tusked machine is a marked improvement, the E23 is yet to show any of the race winning credentials that were possessed by the Lotus’ that propelled Kimi Raikkonen to his 19th and 20th career wins. This fact, combined with a heap of misfortune and occasional driver errors means that Lotus have a right to feel a touch disappointed with their points tally at the halfway mark.
As drivers, teams and fans were forced to cope with sweltering conditions at the Hungaroring, it was Lewis Hamilton who topped the timesheet in both sessions, on a day when grip was at a premium. Undoubtedly amplified by the track temperature which rarely fell below 50 degrees, a number of drivers found themselves struggling to find a balance, with Sebastian Vettel enduring a particularly challenging Friday, with two spins in FP2 following a slow start to FP1 due to an electrical connector issue. While Ferrari have work to do overnight, it is Red Bull who, on the basis of today, will be the best of the rest behind the class-leaders this weekend, as both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat recorded impressive short and long run times.
Formula 1 is rich in history. Across 65 years of competition, the sport has seen some revolutionary machines grace the best circuits on the planet, with unlikely success stories and memorable characters providing the various plots and sub-plots. Last weekend, Brands Hatch provided the venue for a blast from the past, as cars from yesteryear pounded round the former home of the European Grand Prix. Fortunately, I was one of many enthusiastic fans who had traveled to Kent to witness the spectacle and I am pleased to report that F1’s past is just as breath-taking as the documentaries suggest.
The second and final day of in-season testing at Barcelona in 2015 saw Lotus’ Jolyon Palmer secure a mini victory, finishing the day fastest after a late effort on the supersoft tyre saw him usurp Mercedes’ pilot for the day, Pascal Wehrlein. After missing yesterday’s running, in which he was billed to drive at Force India, due to illness, the German recorded 137 laps, once again underlining the reliability of the W06. It has been a great week for Mercedes in general – but then again – its been a great season so far…
After the first two rounds of the season, Sebastian Vettel’s victory in Malaysia has been the leading headline, as an unexpected challenger to Mercedes superiority has emerged. However, one of the most curious aspects of the fledgling season has been the stuttering start for Lotus. The E23 has promised so much, with a shiny new Mercedes powertrain providing some relief following last year’s dire performance, yet the team are yet to convert this new ingredient into a top ten finish – disconcertingly, a la 2014.
The final chapter of the second act of pre-season 2015 has been dramatic. McLaren have made headlines once again, yet it is Fernando Alonso rather than reliability, the focus of today. The Spaniard crashed heavily on the exit of turn three and was subsequently air lifted to hospital. Thankfully, following a CT scan, the team have confirmed that the two time champion is “uninjured and fine.” Elsewhere, Mercedes gave us a taste of just what the W06 has to offer and on the medium tyres, Rosberg posted some emphatic times.