A brief history of the Renault F1 team, including the team's origins, past drivers and its racing record in the F1 world championship
The history of today's Renault team is like peeling back the layers of an onion: its original incarnation was Toleman Motorsport, which entered Formula One in 1981 having taking part in British Formula Ford 2000, British Formula Two and the European Formula 2 Championship.
The Rory Byrne-designed Toleman TG181 was an overweight and underpowered car, and drivers Brian Henton and Derek Warwick failed to qualify in their first nine outings. Henton finally made it onto the grid at Monza and finished in tenth; after that Toleman went on to make 57 Grand Prix starts although most ended in retirement. The team's biggest claim to fame was handing then-British Formula 3 champion Ayrton Senna his first taste of Formula One in 1984 - he handsomely repaid them with three podium positions.
In 1985 Toleman acquired major sponsorship from the Benetton clothing company, previous sponsors of Tyrrell and Alfa Romeo. The team was duly renamed, the flamboyant Flavio Briatore taking over as manager from 1990 with Tom Walkinshaw and Ross Brawn brought in to oversee engineering operations. Rocco Benetton took over as CEO in 1998 and replaced Briatore with Prodrive boss David Richards, before becoming team principal himself.
Teo Fabi, Gerhard Berger, Thierry Boutsen and Johnny Herbert were among the initial drivers to race for Benetton, but the team will be forever linked to the rise of Michael Schumacher. Having made his maiden Formula One appearance with Jordan Grand Prix at Spa in 1991, Schumacher was immediately snapped up by the astute Briatore: their partnership resulted in two world championships in 1994 and 1995, the latter coupled with constructors success for Benetton.
Things were never quite the same once Schumacher moved on to Ferrari in 1996 taking with him Brawn, Byrne and others. The team ended its long-time association with engine partners Ford and formed a new alliance with Renault, but the French manufacturer soon pulled out of Formula One leaving the team resorting to rebadged Mecachrome units instead. However, when Renault had a rethink about their Formula One strategy and wanted a works team it was Benetton that proved their natural purchase for an estimated $120 million in 2001.
Renault were soon contending again for the championship. They finally achieved back-to-back constructors’ titles in 2005 and 2006 with driver Fernando Alonso clinching two world titles in the process. But Renault's business strategy changed again, opting to become an engine supplier rather than team owner: the squad was sold to Genii Capital which renamed it Lotus F1 in 2012, while Renault engines powered Red Bull Racing to four consecutive constructor titles between 2010 and 2013.
A souring of relations between Renault and Red Bull in 2015 coincided with Lotus hitting serious financial problems, so Renault decided to reacquire their old works team with Frederic Vasseur as principal, Bob Bell as technical chief and an all-new driver line-up consisting of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer.
After a tough 2016, the team was still aiming high for its second season and secured the signature of Nico Hulkenberg for 2017. Based on Renault's history, how long will it take before it's once again vying for championships?