In 1980, Renault chose to open the season by developing and modifying their existing cars: chassis RS10, RS12 and RS14. The prefix RS stood for Renault Sport. During the season, however, Renault would go on to build three new cars, and in deference to Renault's main sponsor, the Elf petroleum company, Renault numbered them RE20, RE21 and RE22. The prefix RE stood for Renault Elf.
Drivers Rene Arnoux and Jean-Pierre Jabouille watched as the French engineers worked hard during the off-season to make the very powerful 1.5-litre, twin turbocharged engine more reliable.
By the end of the season, Arnoux had won two Grands Prix victories (Brazil and South Africa) while Jabouille scored one victory (Austria). At the 1980 French Grand Prix, Renault was expected to do very well due to the nature of the long straight at the Paul Ricard circuit. Arnoux started in second position and finished fifth while Jabouille started a disappointing sixth and blew his transmission on the first lap. It was obvious that Renault still had a ways to go until the bugs were completely worked out of their very sophisticated cars.