Gerhard Berger starts the long walk back to the Interlagos pits, Brazilian Grand Prix 1996…
Teammate Jean Alesi passes in his Benetton B196 Renault en-route to second place in the race won by Damon Hills’ Williams FW18 Renault,the Brit won the title that year. It was a great weekend for Hill, he started from pole, won the race, set fastest lap and lapped his mate Mikey in his new Ferrari F310 10 laps from home.
Gerhard qualified 8th and pulled off the circuit with hydraulics failure.
Schumacher joined Ferrari after his two Benetton World Championships on the trot at the start of 1996, the F310 commenced the season poorly but by the end of the year with hard work all round the car was competitive. Benetton were never a force after Schumachers departure morphing into Renault in 2002…Schumi left with Rory Byrne, Ross Brawn and other key players at the time.
At the same time i tripped over the shot above i looked at the prospective F1 team list for 2015, depending upon who actually lobs in Melbourne in March!
Of the 11 potential entrants this year only 3 have ‘unbroken lineage’ as marques; Ferrari, McLaren and Williams. Sure there have been changes in equity ownership along the way of these 3 but in essence the marques are ongoing.
All the other teams started as something else, often many years ago.
Benetton are a good example of a team which ‘morphed’ into a few different teams along the way.
Ted Toleman, a transport entrepreneur became involved in motorsport initially as a power boat competitor and as a sponsor, initially of South African Rad Dougall in FF2000.
They progressed to F2 with Rad racing customer March and Ralt cars and became a manufactuer with the fantastic Toleman TG280 Hart, this 2 litre ground effects F2 machine designed by Rory Byrne, late of Royale for whom he had designed some great cars, the 75′ Royale RP21 one of the alltime best FF cars.
Brian Henton won the 1980 European F2 Championship from teammate Derek Warwick, the whole team including its drivers progressing to F1 in 1983, and famously launching the F1 career of Ayrton Senna in 1984.
Toleman attracted Benetton as a sponsor in 1985, the clothing manufacturer acquiring the team and renaming it in their own image with effect the 1986 season.
Benetton Formula Ltd…
Over the years the team used BMW, Ford and Renault engines with Flavio Briatore, Tom Walkinshaw and David Richards having key management roles along the way.
Drivers included Gerhard Berger, Jean Alesi, Sandro Nannini, Thierry Boutsen, Nelson Piquet, Roberto Moreno, Michael Schumacher and Ricardo Patrese.
The teams most successful period was in 1994/5, with Schumacher taking the drivers title in 1994 with the Ford V8 Zetec powered B194 and both drivers and constructors titles with the Renault RS7 V10 powered B195 in 1995.
Renault acquired the team in March 2000, leaving its name as Benetton in 2000/1 before changing the name to Renault F1 Team…Equipe Renault Elf the earlier incarnation of the Renault F1 team as a constructor from 1977-1985 before withdrawing as a constructor but continuing as an engine supplier to the likes of Williams and Lotus.
Renaults’ Grand Prix heritage stretches right back to the Edwardian period with Ferenc Szisz winning the 1906 French Grand Prix in a Renault AK90CV, they have been in and out of the sport as corporate marketing and engineering needs changed over 100 years.
Renault F1 Team…
The teams sweet spot was with Fernando Alonso in the mid-2000’s, the Spaniard winning the drivers and constructors championships in 2005 and 2006 with the R25 and R26 powered by Renaults RS25 3 litre V10 and RS26 2.4 litre V8 respectively.
The teams competitiveness waned with the departure of Schumacher and other key players to Ferrari at the end of 2005.
Lotus Renault GP…
In 2010 Renault sold a 75% stake in the company to Genii capital , a Luxembourg based investment company given road car commercial pressures. Renault announced its plans to scale back its F1 involvement, Toyota, Honda and BMW withdrawing from the sport for similar reasons.
Lotus Cars entered into a sponsorship agreement till 2017 with the team renamed Lotus Renault GP for 2011 but the cars themselves still called Renaults…and competed with Team Lotus (modern) who had acquired the rights to this historic name from former World Champ James Hunts’ brother David Hunt.
So, essentially there were two Lotus’ competing in 2011, the ‘Lotus Renault GP’ Teams Renault R31 and the ‘Team Lotus’ Lotus T128 Renault…will the real Lotus Renault please stand up!
It could only happen in modern F1, Lotus fans wept and Chapman turned in his grave…at least the Lotus sponsored Renault R31’s were competitive but the Lotus T128’s were shit-boxes at best.
Team Lotus (modern) raced in F1 as ‘Lotus Racing’ in 2010, that entity a group set up and funded by a group of Malaysian businessmen lead by Tony Fernandez who had secured a licence to use the name from Lotus Cars owner, Proton cars, a national Malaysian road car manufacturer.
This ‘dual Lotus’ naming situation was resolved when Fernandez acquired Caterham Cars, see the paragraph below, renaming the team Caterham F1 Team, the cars, wait for it, also Renault powered!
A bit of history here…Team Lotus (old) was the entity under which Colin Chapman competed in Grand Prix Racing…in simple terms, and its not quite this simple; in the Chapman Lotus World ‘Group Lotus Ltd’ built the road cars, ‘Lotus Components’ built the racing cars and ‘7’ until sold to Graham Nearn in 1971, Nearn rebranding the cars ‘Caterham’ as he wasn’t allowed to call them Lotuses’ under the deal he struck with Chapman, and ‘Team Lotus’ raced the cars…simple isn’t it!?
Renault, as stated above continued to supply the chassis (for the Lotus Renault GP team) from the Enstone, UK base which dated back to Benetton days, with Renault branding featuring in black and gold livery which echoed the ‘glory days’ of the Lotus ‘John Player Specials’ of the 70’s. Whilst the visual links were clear the innovative designs and race winning ability were not!
From 2012 the team has been known as Lotus F1 Team…
Kimi Raikkonen, having returned to F1 from a two year stint in rallying and Romain Grosjean really made the E20 Renault RS27 engined cars sing in 2012 .
And so to the present. The Lotus F1 team have entered the 2015 season with their Lotus E23 Mercedes to be driven by Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, the long relationship with Renault as engine provider over for now at least.
The Administrator of Caterham, an administrator to the company being appointed in October 2014 due to funding deficiencies, have provisionally entered the season with dispensation being provided to run the 2014 chassis to improve the potential of the companies sale. ‘Crowdfunding’ being used to raise some working capital. The ‘CF1 Caterham team’ would therefore use the 2014 Caterham CT05 Renault with drivers TBA…
The next morphing of Toleman/Benetton/Renault/Lotus Renault/Lotus F1 will be interesting but far from the last! It begs the question as to which team has ‘morphed’ the most in F1 history…Minardi or Jordan maybe?
D Reinhard, LAT, DR