The French manufacturers second season of its comeback sees the unveiling of its new challenger, the RS17, as the team targets an improvement to fifth place in the constructors’ table. Now the Enstone based team has a year of restructuring and investment behind them it’s a worthy, and possible, challenge.
But, it’s a challenge that has its difficulties; reaching it means overcoming teams like Force India, Williams and/or McLaren, which at times last season felt a little too hard. In fact, due to the rushed nature of the winter takeover, and the delay in development as the outfit began to change, their usual competitors were Sauber and attempting to escape out of Q1.
Can they improve to where they want to be? It’s possible – the introduction of new regulations can be the throw of the dice any team needs to move up the grid, as long as they get it right. And being a manufacturer team the budget will be there to push development faster than before, a weapon in the arms race that will see dividends mid-season. Pit their budget up against other teams for this season and they should be competing at the front end of the grid – as long as everything gels together.
In terms of personnel, the signing of Nico Hulkenberg – which finally sees the underrated German in a works seat – brings the experience of a consistent point scoring driver who’s hungry for the next step. Kevin Magnussen’s departure to Haas opened the door for Jolyon Palmer to stay on, and while at times the Brit looked a little overawed in F1, by the end of the season he had settled into some solid results, considering the machinery at his disposal.
With the car being the first real Renault of the new era – the 2016 car a simple rebadged and bodged Lotus – it’s clear the team is moving in the right direction. Eventually, we need to be talking about the French marque in the same vein as fellow manufacturers Mercedes and Ferrari – 2017 might just be the launch pad to get to that point.
Livery Critique – Alex Odell (@ajokay)
Oh yes! Here we go. Yellow and black always looks damn fine on a race car. It’s no accident that such colours are worn by some of the meanest things in nature – wasps, salamanders, snakes – and any vehicle sporting this livery looks and means business; various Minardis from the team’s first 10 years, the Jordans of the late 1990’s, the Corvette GT cars from the past couple of decades.
The Renault RS17 is no exception.
Of course, Renault’s corporate colours are yellow and black, so those were going to feature, especially without any major sponsors to dictate otherwise like the orange/blue/white/yellow mess we were subjected to a decade ago. This is the first yellow and black Renault we’ve seen since 2011’s R30, which itself had a striking but somewhat disjointed livery, the black swoops that graced the sides of the car punctuated at right angles by vertical barcode stripes.
Of course, last year’s car was yellow and black too but swayed wholly in yellow’s favour. And what a yellow it was. Whilst the R30 was a bold, warm sunshine yellow, the RS16 was dripping in Renault’s now signature ‘Liquid Yellow’. It’s a shade that certainly lives up to its name, appearing as anything from primrose to yellow ochre depending on how the light catches it (making even the most humdrum Clio stand out). The black isn’t black either, but a deep, satin charcoal grey.
The RS17 inherits the Liquid Yellow but sees the deep grey spread from just a patch at the rear of the engine cover to the entire rear half of the car. The yellow bleeds past the cockpit and along the top of the shark fin as if it were liquid. The livery literally drips speed and looks incredibly good while doing so.
If I had any criticism I’d say I’d like to see a little more of the yellow oozing towards the back of the car. The bulk of it ends abruptly at the sidepod intakes and the flow is directed up onto the rather large vanes. Those Castrol logos could do with being plain white on black too. Still, it’s better than bright red Total endplates!
Let’s hope it’s as fast as it looks when Nico Hülkenburg and Joylon Palmer get behind the wheel.