2007 Review: Renault

November 8, 2007 at 4:57 am Leave a comment

This is the fourth in F1-Pitlane’s multi-part season review of each constructor. Today we look at Renault who were only going to go one way in 2007. Down.

When Fernando Alonso departed for pastures anew, the Enstone-based outfit were always going to find life tough adjusting. However, many on the grid thought that Heiki Kovalainen would prove, over time, a more than adequate replacement. Those hopes turned out to be false.

The car 

Given the amount of work that Renault had to do in 2006 just to keep up with a rampaging Ferrari team it isn’t surprising that that deflected attention from the development of the R27. What was a surprise was the extent to which Renault fell back to the pack. Not only had Ferrari usurped them but so did McLaren and BMW. They hung on for third in the Constructors Championship.

One of the issues was adapting to the Bridgestone compounds, which Renault struggled with all season. The team also wasn’t helped by some faulty wind tunnel work which hampered development in the early races. Perhaps the only bright note was the  unerring reliability of the car. Kovalainen, for instance, finished every race bar the last, where he crashed.

In fairness to Flavio and his clan the team realised pretty quick that further work on the 2007 car was futile and switched efforts to the 2008 incarnation. Whether this will enough to claw back any of the gap to the top team remains to be seen. One wonders whether Renault would have been this far behind with Alonso in the cockpit — perhaps he does add 6/10 after all.

The organisation

Briatore continues to skipper the ship with a rod of iron and his flamboyant personality transcends the team.  Pat Symmonds heads up all the technical aspects of the team and he does a damn fine job. Given that the team has never traditionally been an F1 leader the successes over the first part of this decade has been nothing short of astonishing.

More pointed questions on Renault as an organisation centre on the commitment of the parent company to F1.  Renault has a history of pulling in and out of the sport and speculation continues that CEO Carlos Ghosn, a renowned cost cutter, could pull the plug. While the team was winning the decision to continue wasn’t too taxing. A couple of losing seasons could decisively shift sentiment.

The drivers

The loss of Alonso was undoubtedly a big blow but Renault were quietly confident that Heiki Kovalainen would be able to partially fill his shoes. That hope was proved forlorn in the first race and Kovalainen was exceptionally ragged leaving the circuit countless times. After the race, which to the surprise of everyone the Finn actually finished, Briatore publicly admonished his protege.

Kovalainen later admitted that he didn’t understand the onus of him to develop the car and accepted that he should spend more time with his engineers to develop the car jointly. The amazing thing was that Kovalainen had success across many formulas and he had graduated to F1 without understand how to work with his engineers — Flavio must have choked on his cornflakes as he heard that.

To Kovalainen’s credit by the mid-season he’d started to assert himself as Renault’s number one driver as Fisichella was consistently outraced and seemingly headed for retirement. The Finn even secured a podium in a monsoon-affected Japanese Grand Prix, and at one point it looked like he might secure an unlikely post-race victory as Lewis Hamilton was caught on handycam driving like a madman.

The outlook

Renault stated developing the F28 early and had a strong track record in F1 so expect next year’s car to be a lot stronger that this year’s. If Briatore can snare Fernando Alonso the future could be very, very bright.

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Entry filed under: Renault, Teams.

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