- Best Result: 3rd (Vitaly Petrov – Australia, Nick Heidfeld – Malaysia)
- Points scored: 66
- Championship Position: 5th
If you were going to put any money on a team outside of the “big three” – Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren – to take a race win before 2011 then Renault was your safe bet. With great form in 2010 and a motivated World Champion in waiting like Robert Kubica, it was a matter of “when”, not “if”. Then a rally crash the Pole was lucky to escape from turned the teams fortunes completely.
Not that it didn’t start well enough, a podium for each driver was a surprise result, but thanks to development issues with a radical exhaust system, the Enstone based squad is now mired in a fight with Force India and, during races, Toro Rosso. Fringe players to Q3 and the points is a poor return for a season that had such high promise, but yielded so little. You can’t help but think what Robert Kubica would have done with a car that was so fast in the early races. If the update for the car is as good as the tech guys are saying, they should – just – stay ahead of Mercedes.
Status: Chasing Dog
It’s not all bad news for the team though; the emergence of Vitaly Petrov as a challenge to Nick Heidfeld (drafted in as Kubica’s replacement). Compared to his 2010 season of mishaps, the Russian pilot has been steady and consistent – bar an airbourne trip and a few clashes with a certain M.Schumacher – to the point where he’d drawn praise from the same quarters that did the exact opposite last season. Taking 3rd at the season opener was a real eye-opener, and has sneaked into Q3 more times than his much more experienced team-mate.
As for “Quick” Nick, being recruited so late into pre-season has hindered him. A fine display in Malaysia nabbed him a podium, and that and Valencia were the only races he’s looked superior to Petrov. When it came to a decision on who would make way for Bruno Senna to have a crack on Fridays, it’s Nick who made way, which is understandable considering his experience. You just can’t help but feel that the German is falling behind a little but with each passing race.
Badger’s Best: Vitaly Petrov