For its Formula 1 debut, Renault opted for a turbocharged 1500 cc V6 engine, radically different from the ubiquitous 3000 cc V8 and V12 units championed by other manufacturers of the time. Defying strong skepticism, from the Porsche engineers in particular, Renault persevered to claim 15 victories from 1979 to 1983, by which time the whole field had followed its lead on turbo technology.
In the 1977 English Grand Prix at Silverstone, Renault took a bold step: for its first outing in Formula 1, the company dispatched the RS01 fitted with a 1.5 litre turbocharged engine ("Type EF1" V6 engine with one Garrett turbocharger). The other teams were still hanging onto the alternative allowed by the regulations, 3 litre engines that were heavier but more reliable and easier to control.
After a difficult start in 1977, and a fair bit of teasing for its "yellow teapot" looks, the RS01 underwent successive upgrades during the 1978 season, with specially profiled body, new pistons, segments and linings, and an air-water intercooler. It scored its first points toward the end of the season, in the US Grand Prix, followed by an initial pole position in the 1979 South Africa Grand Prix, with Jean-Pierre Jabouille.
It took two years for the Renault Sport engineers to overcome all the problems associated with the turbo. By the 1979 Monaco Grand Prix, the Renault team had taken on a new image, with RS10 driven by Arnoux and by Jabouille. The new car featured "ground effect" design plus dual small turbochargers ("Type EF1" V6 engine with two KKK turbochargers).
Renault's commitment was rewarded on 1 July 1979 at the French Grand Prix in Dijon-Prenois: Jean-Pierre Jabouille, after having claimed pole-position, outflanked the Ferrari of Gilles Villeneuve throughout the race and was the first over the finish line! René Arnoux, finished 3rd. In that race there was also one of the most beautiful battles in F1 history… René Arnoux versus Gilles Villeneuve for the second place.
The first victory for Renault in F1 was also the first victory for a singleseater with a turbo engine. The other teams did not take long to react to this technology and turbos were soon in use across the whole of the starting grid. Renault had made the right choice…
Source: Renault Classic