In Formule 1, Renault revolutionised Grand Prix racing by being an early adopter of turbocharged engine technology, a bold move that paid off.
The early days of Formule 1
When Renault started off in Formule 1, in 1977, the regulations offered engine manufacturers two choices, setting a 3000 cc limit for normally aspirated engines and a 1500 cc limit on turbocharged units. For the first time in Grand Prix history, Renault opted for the second solution. The company decided to race with a V6 turbo. Rival stables looked askance as the funny little French contender performed its first few laps at Silverstone on 17 July.
Renault had been right all along!
The Renault racer soon earned itself the nickname of “little yellow teapot”, because of the engine’s propensity to sputter to a halt in a huge cloud of smoke. At the beginning, chronic reliability problems forced the driver Jean-Pierre Jabouille into an embarrassing series of drop-outs, leaving Ferrari to dominate the season.
After that, things began look up for Renault. Victory at Le Mans in 1978 was followed in 1979 by Jean-Pierre Jabouille claiming the French Grand Prix in Dijon, at the wheel of his RS11. Daunted by this successful performance, the other stables were quick to follow Renault’s lead. And, by 1983, turbocharged engines had become the norm.