|2016 Renault Sport F1 RS16 - by which I mean 2015 Lotus-Mercedes E23 in a temporary show livery|
Thing is, the brand and staff is all established... but despite official images of a Formula 1 car with Renault logos and some initial sponsors on it, we haven't actually seen the car they'll be using.
What you see here is last year's Lotus-Mercedes E23 decked out in new colours. See, because last year it was black with yellowy bits on it, whereas now it's black with yellow bits on it but different bits are yellow. Very important distinction, that.
Seeing the initial images of the "RS16" show car made me bitterly disappointed. Who the hell do Formula 1 teams employ to design their liveries?! Do they just get one of the engineers to do it or something? Last year McLaren had a chance to rebrand and refresh their car with the arrival of Honda power, and they rocked up with a 2005-spec livery instead. Force India went from multi-colour to silver-on-black and the green of Caterham had disappeared, meaning the majority of the grid just had a "monochrome with stripes" look. Given that Renault's Formula E car (present at the event) is blue with yellow over the top, and the RS01 GT racing car was launched in bright yellow like all RenaultSport's road cars, I was hoping for something refreshingly bright and bold from this car. Especially as the typically-purple Infiniti has now joined the team having left Red Bull.
But no. It's monochrome with a few painted panels. I mean, the matte-finish shapes at the back are OK I guess, but that's only noticeable under lights.
But much like the McLaren-Honda failure (the livery one I mean), there's hope! Senior team staff have admitted that this is just a show car and that the one we see in pre-season tests will look different. They only talked about the bodywork changing shape, but some sources are suggesting the livery could be changed however much as well. Hopefully they'll paint the black bits yellow and the yellow bits black for Melbourne and beyond. Is there no imagination in Formula 1 anymore?
In terms of performance, the fact that Renault did the deal so late in the day has lead to compromises in the car's development, because suddenly they had to redesign the rear chassis area to accommodate the Renault power unit instead of the Mercedes one used for a single season. Aero development was also slow as Lotus clinged desperately to life in the face of bailiffs and mounting debts, so the team admit to being a little bit behind on that too. In other words, don't expect them to shoot up the grid straight away just because they've had a cash influx. I'd imagine they'll start in roughly a similar place as 2015, fighting for points here and there, but the added ability to develop could see them creep forwards over the next 12 or 24 months and beyond. They're here to win, but it will take a bit of time.
|(left to right) Jolyon Palmer, Esteban Ocon, Kevin Manussen|
Carmen Jorda, the headline-grabbing development driver signed last year, was not mentioned at any point in any official press material or announcements, but was present at the event and is apparently still working for the team in some capacity or other. It is not known what she actually does, even by the team at this point.
The actual Renault Sport RS16 F1 will be fired up soon and will appear at every pre-season test, all of which starts late this month. Hopefully they will have found a creative French person to devise an actual colour scheme by then...