Benetton B201 Renault
Team: Benetton Formula Ltd
Designer: Mike Gascoyne (TD), Mark Smith (CD)
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella (7), Jenson Button (8), Mark Webber (Test)
Team name: Mild Seven Benetton F1 Team
Sponsors: Mild Seven, Korean Air, Marconi, D2, Playstation, Michelin, Elf
The Benetton B201 is mainly a car that marks the return of French car manufacturer Renault to Formula One. After having taken over the team, Benetton continues for one more year under its own name, before being renamed Renault F1 the next year. It is a transition year for the team, and performance wise it also proved to be what the team expected. The car was designed by a team led by Mike Gascoyne, later joined by Mark Smith who came over from Jordan in May 2001.
The B201 was unveiled on 6 February 2001, from behind a wall of water in the dramatic setting of St Marks Square, Venice. The private media presentation prior to the more general launch had taken place in the old granaries of the Republic, on Giudecca Island. By that time, the car had its shakedown on 2 February at Barcelona, driven by Giancarlo Fisichella. The new engine and gearbox on the other hand had already completed a considerable amount of kilometres in the back of the B200B, a modified B200 to fit the new components.
As early as the launch, Patrick Faure, president of Renault Sport tempered expectations: "2001 will be, above all, a year of adjustment and transition. It is a year in which we will strengthen and develop the team and will test new solutions, particularly the RS21 engine, which represents a great technological leap forward in terms of compactness, weight & efficiency. Technological research and innovation are the very essence of Formula One. In order to win, new creative solutions are needed: new engines and new aerodynamics, but also new creative partners."
The Renault RS21 engine certainly was a challenging choice. The chosen 112° cylinder bank angle was not only very different to the usual 72° and 90° angles of other engines, it also later showed to be a difficult design to evolve due to harmonic imbalances. It did however provide a much reduced centre of gravity, and compared to the previous engines Benetton were using, also a substantial weight reduction. The engine however proved to lack torsional strength in the first part of the season, leading to Renault creating a stronger, heavier version of the RS21.
Along with the important engine change, the team also opted to team up with returning tyre supplier Michelin, replacing Bridgestone. The team also took on more personnel to mount a future championship challenge by getting the chassis department at Enstone, UK work together with the engine department in Viry, France.
The start of the season was extremely difficult as the drivers were battling for 20th positions among Minardi. It was only halfway through the season when things improved, thanks to a new aerodynamic package and an updated engine that produced slightly more power and better reliability. The B201 was good for 4 points finishes during the 2001 season, one of which was a third place on the podium of the Belgian GP by Giancarlo Fisichella. The team scored 10 points and ended 7th in the constructors' championship.
Chassis: Carbon fibre composite monocoque manufactured by Benetton Formula 1. Engine installed as a fully stressed member attached to the rearmost monocoque bulkhead.
Front suspension: Carbon fibre top and bottom wishbones, operating a titanium rocker via a push-rod system. Torsion bar and damper units mounted in the front of the monocoque. Lightweight uprights and Benetton Formula 1 Racing Team designed axles.
Rear suspenssion: Carbon fibre top and steel lower wishbones, operating torsion bars. Damper units mounted on the side of the aluminium gearbox.
Transmission: Benetton Formula 1 semi-automatic six-speed gearbox. Triple plate clutch.
Fuel System: ATL rubber fuel cell, mounted in monocoque behind cockpit.
Oil System: Oil tank mounted at rear of monocoque.
Cooling System: Separate water and oil cooling radiators in each sidepod.
Electrical: Chassis electronics and software, including gearbox control developed by Benetton Formula 1 with interfaces to the Magneti Marelli engine management system.
Braking System: Carbon fibre discs and pads.
Designation: Renault Sport RS21
Configuration: 112° V10
Displacement: 2996 cc