Renault technical chief James Allison has admitted that the team's R31 has become a 'bold but failed experiment'.
The Enstone-based team surprised many with a unique exhaust system on the car when it was unveiled at the start of the year, with a series of solid testing performances following.
Podium finishes for Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld
in the opening rounds of the year in Australia and Malaysia suggested a good year lay ahead but the team then dropped behind its rivals in the development race and – having scored 30 points in the first two races of the season – has added just 42 in the 16 races that followed.
Having ultimately failed to achieve the early promise, Allison admitted he was somewhat disappointed at the way the year had panned out, with the innovative exhaust system actually holding the team back through the season.
“I regard it as a bold, but ultimately failed experiment,” he said. “We were the only team to adopt a forward exhaust layout, and we did so with high hopes, buoyed by very strong wind tunnel numbers. We came out of the blocks adequately well, although it was clear from the first test that the delivered downforce was not as high as we had expected.
“The season which followed has been difficult for everyone at Enstone. The layout which had promised so much (and which, had it delivered, would have been almost impossible to copy) proved very tricky to develop and had a fundamental weakness in slow corners that has been an albatross around our neck all year. We look forward to moving on in 2012 with all-new exhaust rules and a chance to wipe the slate clean.”
Team boss Eric Boullier agreed that the season had been one of mixed fortunes for the team, which suffered its first major blow before a wheel had been turned in anger after Robert Kubica's accident at the start of the year; which ruled him out for the entire 2011 campaign.
“It has certainly been a season of contrasting fortunes,” he said. “The highlights, naturally, remain the podiums that Vitaly and Nick secured us in Australia and Malaysia. That was an amazing way to start the season and it was always going to be difficult to preserve that level of performance as the other teams found their feet.
“As it happened, we did continue to score a healthy number of points at some of the other races in the first half of the season – Canada was a particularly good race for Vitaly - but that petered out as our level of development failed to advance at the same rate as that of our competitors. Bruno did well to get his name on the points board for the first time when we raced in Monza but, as of late, there has not been the consistency required to do well.
“Of course, the positives of the season were lessened by Robert's pre-season incident, which was a big setback for the team. As for the here and now, I would love nothing more than a strong performance at Interlagos to round things off.”