2006 Team Review - Renault 28 Nov 2006
After beating McLaren in the 2005 title chase, Renault had high expectations for the 2006 season. The R26 set the pace during much of winter testing and although Fernando Alonso had already revealed he would move to McLaren in 2007, the world champion and Giancarlo Fisichella represented a strong, stable driver line-up for the year ahead. All in all the French team looked well placed to defend their drivers and constructors crowns.
And Renaults campaign couldnt have got of to a better start. Top of the class in the opening three races, the team scored an unrivalled 42 points. As the rest of the field floundered in comparison, Flavio Briatores squad exploited their new car and its Michelin tyres to the max. During these early stages, Renault seemed unstoppable, with Fisichellas somewhat erratic qualifying performances and the occasional reliability issue the only apparent chinks in their armour.
Even when Ferrari claimed two consecutive victories in the San Marino and European races, the Renaults remained fast. Making the most of a bad situation, the team were still able to glean 20 points and there were few surprised when Renault struck back to reign supreme at Alonsos home race in Spain.
The win in Barcelona was followed by three more for Alonso in Monaco, Britain and Montreal. Although Fisichella lacked the pace and dependability of the world champion, he did score in each race, raising Renaults tally still further. Heading to the US Grand Prix in July, Ferrari languished 34 points behind, but, with their car and Bridgestone tyres improving, the Italian team enjoyed consecutive wins at Indianapolis and Magny-Cours, noticeably reducing Renaults advantage.
With their performance apparently on the slide, Renault were dealt another blow when the FIA declared their mass damper technology to be illegal. Robbed of an intrinsic part of their cars design, the team saw Ferrari take an even bigger slice off their lead. Despite the fact that the R26s performance - in race conditions at least - had improved since Canada, luck was not on Renaults side. A failing wheel nut ruined Alonsos chances in Hungary, where the team suffered a double DNF, and a rare engine failure for the champion at Monza handed more points to Schumacher. Fisichella came home fourth in Italy, but it was not enough to stop Ferrari finally moving ahead in the constructors standings.
Undeterred, Renault stuck to the task in hand and recovered with second and third places in China, despite some tyre issues. It was clear that Renault had rediscovered their pace and when luck finally deserted Ferrari in Japan, the French team were fully equipped to exploit the opportunity. That final win at Suzuka, combined with an 11-point haul at the last round in Brazil, was enough to secure Renault the championship double for another year.
More 2006 team reviews - Ferrari, McLaren, Honda, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Red Bull, Williams, Toro Rosso, Spyker MF1 and Super Aguri.