Renault kicked their Formula One season off officially, by launching their new car, the R29 today in the south of Portugal. Renault selected the Algarve Motor Park near Portimao; the same location and day as one of their F1 rivals: Williams.
The teams star drivers Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet proudly unveiled the car in front of the press. "We began our preparations for the R29 project early and I am proud of what the team has achieved. There are lots of new things to deal with this year, which could shake things up, but we intend to continue fighting at the front," noted Flavio Briatore, ING Renault F1 Team's managing director.
Under the new regulations and with the teams almost certainly protecting some of their most interesting innovations, the cars so far released this month all have a similar look to them. The Renault they unveiled is certainly a striking looking car, almost retro in its appearance and quite unlike anything seen so far in many ways.
Renault claims the new car has a new design philosophy to maximise the benefit from the new rules.
"We will now concentrate on our final preparations for the start of the season so that we can arrive in Australia hopefully fighting for the podium," said Briatore.
Clearly the team and Briatore in particular are coming out fighting, Alonso and Piquet having closely followed the car's progress over the winter are clearly excited about the new car produced by the Enstone and Viry factories.
Renault clearly made some progress towards the end of the 2008 season and Alonso shares Briatore's optimism and is aiming high for the 2009 season.
"At the moment I think Flavio and me, the whole team is really optimistic, and I think there is only one target for this 2009 championship, which is winning the Drivers' Championship and winning the Constructors' Championship. Both championships are the target.
Alonso went on to add, "Everybody is focused on this and all the results that we have from the wind tunnel, the engine dyno, everything is more optimistic that we expected. You need a few factors to be champion at the end of the year, but hopefully I think for the first race we will be able to fight for the podium at least."
Alonso mentioned he is looking forward to the time on the track, "the team has had a very busy development programme to allow us to be ready for the first January test with the new car. Now we are all looking forward to seeing the result of all that effort on the racetrack."
Piquet took the car out in the wet conditions and reported, "It feels great to be in the R29, even though the weather was not great. Today was all about adding miles to the car, collecting data and learning as much as we could. Hopefully the rest of the week will allow us to build on the progress we have made today."
The R29 itself may have been made to comply with the same regulations as the other launched cars but it somehow manages to looks rather different. The large straight front wing is there but is stepped backwards in plan view. The wing end plates are large and contain elements to not only guide the air flow around the front wheel but over it as well. The movable sections of the front wing which will be controlled by driver inputs consist of a large single element.
The nosecone unlike the more familiar pointed front section cars is more of a shark nose when viewed in profile, and the whole front section sweeps back in a gradual curve to the cockpit.
The side pod and rear section form a flowing structure which sweeps under the car to the floor pan covering much of the suspension and drive components. The top sports a tail fin which stretches from the air intake / roll hoop area to the back of the car, a feature that appeared on many F1 cars during the 2008 season.
The covered suspension and drive components is as yet a unique feature for the R29, with all the other cars seen already tapering back to some degree.
The team will continue to test the car at Portimao for the next 3 days, after which we are sure to know more about how well it goes but one thing is undeniable, Renault have created something different and striking.