2001 marked the end of an era. As Benetton would leave the Formula One. Their engine supplier Renault decided to buy the team and bring Renault back in the Formula One as a team. The Benetton B201 would score one last podium at the Belgium circuit, as the car struggled a lot with the engine. During after season testing the Benetton B201 appeared on the track only this time in a yellow-white jacket and rebranded to Renault B201.
The Benetton B201 was a bit of a strange looking car. Besides it as the team’s last F1 car the car unusual wide-angled (111°) engine configuration was troubling the team. Although on paper it offered potential aerodynamic advantages as the engine sat low in the chassis, the form of the engine proved the lack of reliability and power. You could say that the Benetton B201 was more an experimental car for Renault.
The Benetton team ended the year as seventh with podium finish during the Belgium Grand Prix as best result. The worse result of the team. However, the Benetton would re-appear during the after season testing in 2001 and early pre-season testing in 2002. The Renault B201 made its debut with an yellow-white livery.
The Renault B201 was mostly used to develop the electrics that were used for the upgraded and improved Renault V10 engine. Renault’s test hack did not shown the best results, as can see here, during it’s first appearance on the track. At Circuito de Catalunya 7th until the 31st of January, the car was driven by Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso. As the Renault R202 was still in development. The car was fitted with improved electronics, aerodynamics and brand new engine.
While Renault finished their new Renault R202, the Renault B201 was still used for installation laps and mostly used to test the electronics for the new engine. During the second weekend of February the team would appear once more with the car at Circuito de Catalunya. Jarno Trulli drove three shakedown rounds with the Renault . Fernando Alonso would take over the wheel after it for testing. Mike Gascoyne stated that the B201 did his job and that the Renault R202 would become a winner.