If any Formula One team made major news stories last season, it was Renault. Following two successful years as world champions with the Mild Seven tobacco sponsorship, it was relieved of major sponsorship by Dutch banking giant ING in 2007. The squad then went from champions to also-rans, to nearly the bottom of the grid. Also, thanks to the famous "Crashgate" scandal that saw the popular figures of Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds leave the team, it got worse yet when Fernando Alonso left for Ferrari at the end of 2009.
To cope with the auto industry crisis, Renault itself was thinking of selling its Formula One team altogether. But a Luxembourg-backed company called Genii Capital stepped in and bought three quarters of the team, keeping the hopes alive for 2010.
So with the slate now clean for the Anglo-French unit, the team launched the new R30 challenger in Valencia, Spain on Sunday afternoon. The team has the view that things might be different now, but with the desire to win races and possibly championships, can still happen.
Replacing Briatore for the position of Team Principal is the Genii import Eric Boullier, who brings youth and GP2 experience with him to F1. In addition, after waiting weeks to find out who will drive alongside Robert Kubica this season, the team has selected Russian pilot Vitaly Pertrov, who finished second in GP2 last season to Nico Hulkenberg.
"This is a special day for Vitaly and we welcome him into the team," stated Boullier. "As a rookie, we recognize that Vitaly will have a lot to learn this season, but his performances in GP 2 last season were outstanding and confirmed that he is ready to make the step to Formula One."
Petrov is also the first Russian to drive an F1 car, and was very thankful that he finally made it.
"This is a great opportunity for me and I am really looking forward to working with the team this season." Said Petrov. "I have always dreamed of racing in F1 and so to make my debut with a top team like Renault is very exciting."
Meanwhile Kubica, who has been with the team after being hired at the end of last season, did some driving in other formulae this winter, but now F1 is his desire and he is ready to get in the racecar.
"The team has been working on the new car for a long time, and it is clear we are moving in the right direction," said Kubica. "Our priority is to make the car easy to drive because the new rules favor cars that are not too sensitive. We need a car that behaves consistently in a wide range of conditions."
After losing many sponsors, Renault still retains French Oil giant Total for the year, but the car now is a throwback to the days of the late 1970s, when the car was black and yellow in color, and the blue, white and orange styles from the past few years are gone.
The team also has included three test drivers, which two are Genii employees. Jerome D' Ambrosio and Ho-Pin Tung, along with Jan Charouz, join a line up that is eager to go and certainly can improve on a past that they now would rather forget and replace with success.