From title contenders in 1983 to also-rans in 1984, Renault had endured a tough off-season to boot, with team manager Gerard Larrousse and designer Michel Tetu departing amid persistent rumours that Renault head office was about to pull the plug on its failed F1 project. In the event, the team soldiered on with Gerard Toth coming in as manager and the Renault Sport Design Office finishing work on the new RE60 chassis. Both drivers at least remained on board, with Derek Warwick reportedly turning down a Williams drive to continue with the team. He soon regretted it; arriving in Rio for winter testing, the RE60 was found to be over 3 seconds slower than last year’s car and Warwick pronounced it “impossible to drive”. Things aren’t looking good for La Regie in what could be a vital season for them.
Tambay had joined Renault with high hopes, which were quickly dashed when the car proved simply too thirsty for him, and he was outpaced by a hungry Warwick early on to boot. As usual, Renault did better than usual on home ground, and at Dijon both drivers looked handy and Tambay took pole and raced with the McLarens before finishing a fine second. Then at the next race in Monaco he had a nasty crash, missed Canada and by the time he returned the cars were having all sorts of reliability problems. However, he seemed to deal with this better than Warwick, and looked the more convincing of the two at the end of the season, despite bad luck and bad reliability preventing him from doing better than a 5th and a 6th place.
Warwick had turned heads once the Tolemans finally found their form in 1983, and his early-season form with Renault suggested he could even bring the Renault team the title they craved: he led in Rio, finished 3rd in South Africa, 2nd in Belgium and 4th in San Marino and ran second in the championship. But mechanical unreliability and a thirsty engine stopped him from maximising his opportunities, while he could still have an impatient streak which caused him to make mistakes when trying to pass other drivers. Renault’s mid-season disasters seemed to take their toll more on Warwick than they did on Tambay, and while two more podium places meant he was the top-scoring of the two, he looked second-best on the track.