What’s the problem with Renault?
It was no great surprise to see the champions of 2005 and 2006 lose their way in 2007. There was certainly no shortage of explanations: they had lost their champion driver and talisman of the team, Fernando Alonso. They had lost the Michelin tyres to which generations of Renault chassis had been perfectly tuned. And in the haste to keep pace in 2006 they had gotten seriously lost on their aerodynamics calculations.
But this year they appear to be behind McLaren, Ferrari, BMW, Toyota, Red Bull and Williams – enough to make merely scoring points a challenge.
I wonder if the heart of the problem is Flavio Briatore.
Back in 1996 when Briatore was in charge at Benetton he had seen his favourite son, Michael Schumacher, leave for Ferrari. Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi came in his place and it was clear Briatore wasn’t impressed – particularly when Alesi retired from the 1997 Australian Grand Prix having missed several calls to pit for fuel. By the end of the season Briatore had left the team to seel F1 engines instead.
Fast forward a decade and, in 2007, Briatore once again saw one of his proteges leave for another team as Alonso switched to McLaren for 2007.
Alonso, of course, has returned to Renault. But for how long? According to Red Bull’s Dietrich Mateschitz Alonso was only looking for a one-year deal for 2008. And the twice world champion has already stated he can escape his Renault deal if certain performance criteria aren’t met – which aren’t likely to be met in a car not capable of scoring points every weekend.
All this makes me wonder if Flavio Briatore hasn’t seen the writing on the wall, knows it’s inevitable Alonso will go to Ferrari in 2009 (or failing that perhaps BMW?) and instead is devoting all his time to his new love: Queens Park Rangers Football Club.