Friday, 16 December 2011

Team Season Review: Renault

Renault started brilliantly but hugely faded, as they missed Robert Kubica.
Drivers: Vitaly Petrov, Nick Heidfeld, Bruno Senna
Best Finish: 3rd (Australia, Malaysia)
Best Qualifying Result: 6th (Australia, Malaysia, Spain)

Points: 73
Constructor's Championship: 5th

How notable it was that Renault missed Robert Kubica this year. Their star man, who topped the first winter test session, was ruled out for the 2011 season when he was involved in a horrific rallying crash. Renault clearly badly missed the Pole, who had driven excellently in 2010. After this awful news, they chose Nick Heidfeld to replace Kubica. This meant Vitaly Petrov needed to step up to the team leader role. And the first two races looked so good: Two third places at Australia and Malaysia indicated that the team had some real pace. But from there on, what happened? No podiums from that point, and their best finish was fifth as the ca's pace just disappeared in a very hard season for the team. Renault believed that Nick Heidfeld wasn't performing as expected, and after the Hungarian Grand Prix, he was replaced with Bruno Senna. Senna did reasonably well, qualifying in seventh in his first race, at Belgium, before points in the next race at Italy. Singapore was a true disaster - Renault were horrendously off the pace, and were embarassed. The team's excellent start was the only thing that kept them in fifth place, as Force India chased them down towards the end. After the season finished, Renault announced that Kimi Raikkonen would be returning with them in 2012. The week after, another driver was announced to be returning with Renault, as Romain Grosjean signed for the team. Renault will be known as Lotus in 2012, and with two new drivers, change is clearly the aim in 2012.

Best Finish: 3rd (Australia)
Points: 37
Driver's Championship: 10th


Petrov in action at Turkey
An incredibly strange season for Petrov, who starte so well, and yet later on drove at times worse than in 2010. Australia was a wonderful weekend, qualifying a fantastic sixth place, and driving a very controlled race, with a good strategy to finish in third place, and take his first ever podium. Petrov was running in the points in Malaysia, but ran wide on a corner and as he tried to regain control the car flew up in the air, and Petrov retired with a steering column failure. The Russian made it into the points in China and Turkey, before just missing out in Spain. Petrov was involved in a heavy accident towards the end of the Monaco Grand Prix, which brought out the red flag as marshals recovered him from the car. Fortunately Petrov was fine, and he was able to race in Canada, where he took a brilliant fifth place. Valencia and Britain were difficult races out of the points, but Petrov returned to Q3 in Germany, where he qualified ninth and finished tenth. Hungary was out of the points again, before a ninth in Belgium. At Monza, Petrov was taken out at the first corner on the first lap by Tonio Liuzzi, which was followed up with a dreadful weekend in Singapore. Petrov was eliminated in Q1 and started eighteenth, and finished seventeenth in a dire weekend for the Russian driver. Next was Japan, where he took points with ninth. Korea was going well, until he stupidly torpedoed Michael Schumacher, forcing both to retire. No points in India or Abu Dhabi was followed with a single point in Brazil, the last race. It's hardly surprising that Petrov was replaced once the year ended, and won't drive for the team in 2012. His podium was one of the biggest flashes in the pans the world has ever seen, and Petrov's season was inconsistent at best.

Best Finish: 3rd (Malaysia)
Points: 34
Driver's Championship: 11th


Heidfeld on his way to the Malaysia podium
After racing in the last few Grands Prix for Sauber in 2010, the German was called up to replace Robert Kubica for Renault in 2011 after topping the second winter test session. A lot of expectation was placed on Heidfeld, and it would be fair to say he didn't live up to these expectations. A problem in the first qualifying session of the year for Heidfeld meant he started eighteenth. The German finished twelfth, before an excellent race at Malaysia. Qualifying sixth, he made one of the best starts of the year, to move up to 2nd. The German finished third in a wonderful race. Turkey was his next appearance in the points, winning a long battle with his team mate to finish seventh. Spain and Monaco saw eighth places for Heidfeld, despite him starting from 24th in the former after a fire in third practice session. He was running well in Canada, before coming together with Kamui Kobayashi forced him into retirement. Heidfeld got into the points in the next two races though, with a tenth and an eighth occurring at Europe and Britain. He was unlucky in his home race, Sebastien Buemi stupidly crashing into him, meaning he had to retire. Heidfeld again retired in Hungary, after another fire in his car. After this race Renault announced they were to be replacing him with Bruno Senna. Heidfeld tried to take legal action, but he formally left the team at the Italian Grand Prix. He still is yet to win a race.

Best Finish: 9th (Italy)
Points: 2
Driver's Championship: 18th


Senna's only points came at Monza
After Nick Heidfeld beat him to the Renault drive at the start of the year, it was quite ironic that it was Heidfeld whom Senna replaced when he returned to Formula One. He replaced Heidfeld at the Belgian Grand Prix, and qualified a wonderful seventh, qualifying ahead of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. However, the race didn't go well, crashing into Jaime Alguersuari at the first corner, incurring a drive-thru' penalty, meaning he finished thirteenth. However, his second race, at Monza, was much more positive, finishing ninth and taking his first ever Formula One points. Senna was a victim of Renault's hideous performance at Singapore, qualifying and finishing fifteenth. Senna was sixteenth in Japan, and thirteenth in Korea. The Brazilian was running in the points in India, but a late pit stop meant he finished twelfth. Abu Dhabi was a disappointing race, while despite a wonderful qualifying in Brazil, starting ninth didn't yield any points as Senna clumsily collided with Michael Schumacher, incurring a drive-thru' penalty. After the season, the announcements that Raikkonen and Grosjean would be joining the team leaves Senna without a drive.

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