In 1973, Renault focused on developing a V6 2.0-litre engine that turned out to be competitive very quickly in the prestigious European Two-Litre Sports Car Championship. Renault then joined the World Championship, introducing a turbocharged version of the V6. Everywhere they went, the turbo engine Renault cars proved to be frighteningly quick, scoring a series of pole positions and fastest race laps. In 1978, the A442B won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by Jean Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi.
Renault Sport was founded in 1976 and a single-seater programme was also launched the same year. Track test sessions were held with a 1.5-litre version of the V6 engine for F1. Several races were scheduled for the following season.
Powered by the new V6 turbo engine, the RS01 was designed by François Castaing and André de Cortanze. Coupled with an aluminium monocoque chassis, the single-seater made its F1 debut at the 1977 British Grand Prix. Driven by Jean-Pierre Jabouille, it was initially nicknamed "The Yellow Teapot" in the UK because of its tendency to produce clouds of white smoke when the turbo failed.
Whilst competing teams used V8 and V12 engines exclusively, which were larger and used more fuel but which were also more reliable, Renault’s technical teams adopted a patient approach as they attempted to master the technology, unprecedented at this level. The switch to twin-turbo technology represented a huge leap forwards. With it, Jean-Pierre Jabouille secured Renault’s first pole position at Kyalami at the 1979 South African Grand Prix before winning the French Grand Prix in Dijon later the same year.
It did not take long for rival stables to follow Renault’s lead and develop their own turbo as they tried to match the performances of the yellow and black cars…