The 2001 F1 season was the last season for the Benetton name in F1 after a presence of almost 20 years in the sport with two driver’s and one constructor’s championship under the belt. The team however will not disappear but it will fill two grid positions in the 2002 season under the name Renault.
The 2001 season was used mainly to experiment, especially the engine differt a lot from the rest of the field.Renault’s V10 powerplant had a rumoured 111° V angle instead of the common 72° or 90° V angle used in other engines. The larger V angle has a lower centre of gravity in the car as a result which should benifit the handling of the car and furthermore the larger V angle allows for a higher maximum rpm and thus more horsepower. It looked like the winning package in theory but alas for the Benetton team there were some problems concerning the rigidity of the engine and the horizontal vibrations. The engine is a part of the chassis and if it is not rigid enough it will create chassis flex. Rigidity is not an issue with the compact engines normally used but the larger V angle didn’t make the engine rigid enough. The larger V angle alsocreates in more horizontal vibrations as the pistons moved more horizontally than normal, this lead to many engine breakdowns and to be on the safe side the engine wasn’t able to run at maximum rpm.
During the season the team worked on the problems and the last Grand Prix of the season the car became more competive. With full Renault backing and a new ingenious valve operating system the 2002 season saw Benetton/Renault back fighting for podium places.
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Source: Benetton Press Release