Renault Sport F1Kevin MagnussenJolyon Palmer

2015 Constructors' Standings - 6th (as Lotus)

Renault may have been on a mission to play its chances down, but despite some rushed preparations and even late driver change, it came away from testing having surprised even itself. If it is reliable, points are on the cards in Australia and it can only get better from there

Given the constant sidesteps, indecisions and eventual lateness of the deal to purchase Lotus and return to F1 as a fully-fledged constructor again, Renault has certainly thrown its full weight behind its renewed manufacturer effort.

Whether it would have returned to F1 without some coaxing from its bitter 'frenemy' Red Bull Racing barely matters now, Renault's return is big news for the sport.

For a firm that faced a barrage of criticism from its partner over the past two years, Renault has refrained from getting mired in back-biting, even if - despite the bizarre fanfare in February that neither revealed the car nor the livery - it is keeping predictions pretty modest.

Still, whether it was the stealthy testing livery - which we expect to be rather more eye-catching (trans: yellow) come Melbourne - or some reverse psychology, Renault came away from testing with a seemingly more rounded package than even it was expecting.

Perhaps this should be expected. The Lotus E23 the Renault RS16 has evolved from was a simple, yet effective car that was neglected as a result of strangled funds. Whilst the Renault engine in the back isn't likely to be on a par with the outgoing Mercedes unit, a nurtured, better-funded chassis should go a long way - maybe even all the way - to making up the difference.

Furthermore, the Renault engine itself does seem to have made solid progress over the winter, with even the Red Bull drivers satisfied (so long as they don't say the 'R' word). Despite some niggles initially, reliability has largely been solid and the team has upgraded its predictions to 'in and around the points' from the off.

In the driving seat, Kevin Magnussen makes a welcome return following his much publicised 'demotion-turned-termination' from McLaren. Hell hath no fury than a driver scorned, the Dane's call up came late at the expense of Pastor Maldonado, but he has quickly established himself in the team. Decent times in testing suggest it hasn't taken long for the cobwebs to brush off, but Magnussen now needs to prove he has the aggression come race day, the area he admitted he suffered in his 2014 rookie campaign.

It is advice he can potentially impart to Jolyon Palmer, who having signed for Lotus now finds himself with the full backing of a factory drive. Therein lies the challenge for the former GP2 Series champion, whose Lotus presence was partly (but not solely) financially motivated, so he must now prove he can hold onto his Renault seat on merit alone. It's a tough ask with the likes of Esteban Ocon set to be given try-outs in the car and the French firm re-establishing its junior driver programme. Testing hasn't gone well either thanks to those aforementioned reliability issues seemingly being reserved for him only, but at least Palmer has a good marker in Magnussen to measure himself again and experience of most F1 venues.

 

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