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SEASON REVIEW: Renault Goes Quietly; Nissan Emerges

The once all-conquering Renault e.dams faced changes on and off the track in S4…

Photo: Formula E

If any one team had a curious season in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, it was the Renault e.dams squad.

Undefeated in the teams’ standings ahead of Season Four, the all-French outfit faded in to mediocrity, failing to score a single victory and bowing quietly out of the series to begin a new life as a Nissan-entered concern.

To be fair to the team, it did give out warnings ahead of the season that it was no longer a favorite.

The bigger picture in becoming Nissan was already formed when the team announced its campaign in Paris in September.

The rhetoric coming from lynchpins of the team such as Jean-Paul Driot, tech chief Vincent Gaillardot and Season Two champion Sebastien Buemi was that very little in the way of development had been done.

Instead, a new program with Nissan in Season Five became the primary focus.

While many always seemed to expect more from Renault e.dams this season, this was perhaps unfair on the team, which became a casualty of its own impressive success over previous seasons.

However, a tangible sense of disappointment still reigned by the end of the season with the team classified fifth after scoring 133 points.

It was its lowest ever bounty by a sizeable margin of 99 points, and the disappointment was clear to see for most of the campaign.

As expected, Buemi contributed the most from a points perspective with 125 accrued.

Some of his performances were close to his best in the series, such as fighting third positions at Santiago and Punta del Este, while he was a strong contender for laps of the season by taking a stunning double pole in New York.

On other occasions, however, it was a shock to see him relinquish positions so easily, notably in Marrakesh to Felix Rosenqvist and to Jean-Eric Vergne in both Berlin and New York.

There was clearly a strong sense of frustration in his driving, but conversely, there were fewer mistakes than in previous seasons.

His frustration came in the way of mystery issues with his cars through most of the first half of the season, including a rumor that a modification to the car’s differential was to blame, but this was discounted, publically at least, by the team.

Ultimately, Buemi found himself unable to attack on several occasions where he once might have done.

In Paris, he couldn’t challenge Maro Engel’s Venturi despite having an energy advantage over the German in the second phase of the race.

Nico Prost, meanwhile, often cut a disconsolate figure in the paddock as he failed to come to terms with the 2017-18 package.

The previous season had been slightly better for the Frenchman but with increased opposition, sadly he became more exposed.

He struggled with the quirky Michelin tires and was forced down several cul-de-sacs in trying to resolve the situation.

His exit from the team was decided back in the early spring but only made public in June.

Prost rarely made excuses and his acceptance that his Formula E career was probably at an end was done with typical class and grace.

Prior to his departure, his father Alain had already left and an atmosphere of an era coming to an end permeated the team for much of the year.

There were extenuating circumstances, too, with founder Driot missing the first half of the season through illness.

Driot is one of the great modern-day racing leaders and, although there was an adequately experienced replacement in the shape of Francois Sicard, the effect of his absence should not be underestimated.

Will Nissan Marketing Power be Matched on the Track?

The future for the e.dams-led entry is both interesting and complex.

The metamorphosis from Renault to Nissan has not been an easy one on many levels but the coexistence between Driot’s title-winning operation and the NISMO element is starting to gain traction.

Whether it can revisit some of the dizzy heights of previous seasons remains to be seen.

The constituent ingredients are good though as DAMS, which e.dams comes under, has previous experience of running manufacturer programs dating right back to the GM Cadillac operation in 2000.

Sebastien Buemi will stay with the operation for a fifth season and is likely to be joined by a Japanese teammate.

Michael Carcamo brings an engineering-management eye to the whole program as Nissan is set to trigger a massive marketing campaign on its EV automotive technology in the coming years.

The former Ilmor ChampCar engineer is as pure a racer as any in the Formula E paddock and will relish working with the likes of Gaillardot who has been intrinsic to past success.

The big questions that remain are whether Nissan can harness the previous learnings from the Renault e.dams success and compete with early Season Five favorites Audi and DS Techeetah.

One thing for sure is that Techeetah’s accomplishments in Season Four will act as a massive additional motivational spur for the French-based, Japanese-entered squad’s intended revenge.

Photo: Formula E

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. krisg

    September 1, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    DO believe that Renault will regret from its withdraw to focus on F1; from an engineering and marketing perspective FE is the place to be, F1 won’t add anything to Renault but huge expenses.
    Despite being in an alliance for almost two decades now, the Renault-Nissan isn’t driven as a group (they’re working to make it happen) as the VAG (Audi+VW+Porsche) and they do still have independent programs.

    • Chris

      September 2, 2018 at 2:44 am

      Completely agree. The general public don’t think of Renault and Nissan as related, and they are both big players in EVs (at least for traditional automakers). They should both be in FE if they are serious about electric. And I think Renault are falling behind the Korean companies in particular in technology and in drive to dominate the EV market. And the F1 distraction is taking them in the totally wrong direction. I was surprised when they bought the Enstone team again. That was probably the right time to leave F1 completely as an engine manufacturer and switch the focus.

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