Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Renault unveils 2009 F1 car

Renault unveiled the race car it hopes will help Fernando Alonso win a third Formula One championship.

The French team wheeled out its new R29 car on Monday, with a new colour scheme and a number of drastic design changes to comply with the sport's new rules for 2009.

Renault's car has followed the trend of rival F1 teams Ferrari, Toyota and Williams - which also displayed its 2009 car for the first time on Monday at the Portimao circuit in Portugal - with a wide nose and narrow rear wing.

But Renault has carried over the use of the shark fin engine cover from last season, while a striking yellow colour scheme replaces last year's blue-orange design.

"What's important is that it goes fast," Alonso said. "The aesthetics of the car don't matter, only the speed."

The fat nose and throwback, boxy look of this year's class hasn't won over too many so far.

"It's a car. What interests me is that it's fast, not if it's beautiful," Renault team boss Flavio Briatore said. "If it wins, it's nice."

Alonso committed to Renault through 2010 in December after the 27-year-old Spaniard closed the season with two victories in the last four races to renew belief in the team's ability to challenge for the F1 title.

"I'm better prepared than other years at this point," Alonso said. "I'm more motivated than ever. I don't know why, but maybe with all the regulation changes I guess."

Alonso, a two-time world champion with Renault, finished fifth in the drivers' standings, while the French team was fourth in the constructors' championship.

Renault also confirmed that Romain Grosjean will be its test driver in 2009, with the young Swiss driver being tipped for a future seat with the team.

F1 rival Williams tested its FW31, a vehicle the British team calls its "first major clean-sheet car design for perhaps 30 years."

Test driver Nico Hulkenberg said the car felt "OK" after a first spin.

"Of course everyone will want to know how it compares to the 2008 car and what the impact of the rule changes are from a driver's point of view. In truth, I cannot say too much after a few laps, because the track is 100 per cent new to me," said Hulkenberg, who had the third-fastest time of the five drivers who tested on Monday. Piquet Jr. had the fourth-fastest time.

The Williams car also features a narrow back and a wider nose, which the driver can adjust himself. All cars will also be running on slick tires again.

"Aerodynamics is likely to be the key to the first two-thirds of the season ahead," Williams technical director Sam Michael said.

Williams is coming off a disappointing season where it finished eighth in the constructors' standings.

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