The Renault F1 Team today launched its 2006 world championship challenger, the R26, in Monaco with the promise of an aggressive defence of the team’s double world championship. In front of world-wide media and VIP guests in Monte-Carlo, the world champion Renault F1 Team today officially launched its 2006 championship campaign with a clear objective: defending the world championship with an aggressive approach to the 2006 season.
“In terms of performance objectives, there can be only one: to be fighting for the world championship in the final races,” explained Renault F1 Team President Patrick Faure. “We enter the year with an unchanged line-up in our management, our drivers and our technical team. Everybody at Viry and Enstone has been working to prepare a technical package capable of keeping us at the top. Complacency has no place at Renault. We are focused on repeating our successes.”
For 2006, the Renault F1 Team has adapted to significant changes in the technical regulations governing Formula 1. Teams must now run with 2.4L V8 engines (instead of the 3L V10 used in 2005) which have been introduced in order to cap performance, with an initial reduction in power of approximately 20%. These regulations have been framed in order to reduce the potential for development in the medium and long term, thus cutting costs. The change has necessitated the design and development of a brand new engine, the RS26, by the team at Viry-Châtillon. This project has been led since its inception in September 2004 by Léon Taillieu, under the leadership of Engine Technical Director Rob White.
“The RS26 is a brand new engine, which has been designed to exploit the new regulations to the maximum,” explains Rob White. “The regulations now impose many parameters of engine design, such as a minimum weight limit, a fixed architecture and even the centre of gravity. We have taken a pragmatic approach with the aim of producing a winning engine. The dialogue with our colleagues on the chassis team has been open and extensive, to produce the best possible overall package. We have approached the V8 project with relish, and high ambitions.”
The package that has been developed around this new V8 powerplant, is the Renault R26 chassis. The work of a team led by Chief Designer Tim Densham, and guided by Chassis Technical Director Bob Bell, the car represents an aggressive evolution of the championship-winning design philosophy from 2005. Although the aerodynamic regulations have remained stable, the team has designed a brand new package to further optimise chassis performance.
“We have worked on improving the car in every area,” reveals Bob Bell. “We have integrated the challenges posed by the new V8 engine, and continued on our performance development path. The most striking visual difference comes in the smaller sidepods on the car, but the entire aerodynamic package is new. We will also use a 7-speed gearbox, to best exploit the power and torque characteristics of the new engine. Of course, we have also worked to maintain the positive handling characteristics that made the car easy to drive last year. The R26 is an aggressive statement from the team, and it says that we mean to stay on top in 2006.”
The R26 ran for the first time in Jerez, Spain on 10 January, and has since completed over 2700 km in the hands of both race drivers. Initial indications on both performance and reliability have been very encouraging.
The race driver line-up for the Renault F1 Team continues unchanged in 2006. The pairing of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella is among the most complete on the grid, and in the coming season, they will be supported by Finn Heikki Kovalainen as test and third driver, after he finished runner-up in the inaugural GP2 series championship in 2005.
World Champion Fernando Alonso will enter the season as the man to beat in Formula 1. After being crowned the sport’s youngest champion in 2005, he will hope to defend his world title with the same blend of aggression and precision that defined his driving last year. Although this will be his final season with the Renault F1 Team, the Spaniard enters the new season fully focused on the challenge ahead.
“2006 is a brand new challenge for me,” comments Alonso. “Everything begins again this year. At this stage, it doesn’t mean anything to say you can win the title – but I certainly want to be fighting for it. Renault has the potential and the team has the confidence that we can do it from last year. My first impressions of the car have been very positive, and we seem to be competitive with the quickest teams. My goal is to defend the number 1 on the nose of the Renault R26.”
For team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, 2006 will be a year of confirmation. After finishing fifth in last year’s world championship, and playing a key role in Renault’s conquest of the constructors’ title, the Italian is aiming to establish himself at the front of the field this year, and to fight for the world title.
“It is simple for me: I am aiming for the world championship,” stated Fisichella. “This is a team that is defending the world title and working hard to win it again, so I am looking forward to a great season. There will be a good rivalry with Fernando. And from my point of view, I want to score points, win races and be in the fight for the championship.”
The final piece in the jigsaw comes in the form of an unchanged portfolio of investment, from the team’s partners and official suppliers. In 2005, the Renault F1 Team provided the best value for money on the Formula 1 grid, achieving a winning return on investment for its partner companies. It is a point that Managing Director Flavio Briatore highlights with pride, as he lays down the gauntlet for 2006.
“We have a simple rule: the priority is what makes the car go faster,” concludes Briatore. “We are proud of the efficiency of the team. Last year, Renault won the championship with three times’ less money than some of our competitors. There is always pressure at the start of a championship, and there is no point hiding from it now. 2005 was an exceptional season for us, and we hope to do it again this year.”