There had been an air of expectation at Renault this season, unshackled from the financial woes of their former owner under the name of Lotus, but it didn’t materialise and the team fell backwards towards the rear of the field.
A late call from Renault to purchase the team, meant getting out of the Mercedes contract set up by the former owners which saw Romain Grosjean get a podium at Spa in 2015, and then engineering the car to fit the less desirable Renault engine.
It was expected that Pastor Maldonado would be retained, with money coming from PDVSA, although that didn’t materialise. A switch just before the launch in Paris meant that Kevin Magnussen returned to Formula One after a season out of the sport. He would be paired with reserve driver and GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer in his first season in the sport.
It was a slow start to the season for Palmer, eclipsed by his more experienced teammate throughout the flyaway races, but it did get better. A point did come though for the British driver, at the United States Grand Prix, at just the right time as the team were deciding on the driver line up for the 2017 season.
The team also had the services of Mercedes protégé Esteban Ocon, employed as their official reserve driver. That was until he was called up to drive for Manor in the second half of the season, replacing Rio Haryanto, before making the move to Force India in 2017. He has been in contention for a seat at Renault for next season, looking for a French driver at the team.
The lack of money going into the 2016 package from last season was evident, although Renault did the best with what they had, a car suffering from a lack of downforce. A year down the line, and the investment from Renault is really starting to show, and a optimism that results will improve. Statements of intent by hiring Nico Hulkenberg to lead the team, and a recent suggestion they are to have the best engine in the sport by 2018 could mean they might spring a few surprises next year.