Posts filed under ‘Renault’

Machinations of the F1 circus

What’s the difference between Formula 1 and a circus? A circus has more clowns. And so it goes.

Anyone but the most ardent F1 fan freely admits that his favourite sport is quickly becoming nothing short of a total farce.

Consider this: by the end of the year the last four world championships will have been decided not by who crossed the finish line first, but by the legal wigs in the courts. There is a chance, not a big chance but a chance none the less that each of these championships will change hands because of the legal rancour.

One, the 2007 Constructors title, already has with the trophy sitting in a glass case in Maranello when, a team in Woking actually accrued the most constructor points. In three days time Lewis Hamilton could be handed the Drivers Championship if BMW and Williams are expelled from the Brazilian Grand Prix. In any other race they would have been but it is unlikely the FIA will have the guts to alter the destination of the title, especially when it was won by Bernie’s favourite team.

With Renault-gate picking up momentum there is a chance that the Enstone-based outfit could be disqualified from the 2006 Constructors Championship, as that was when confidential McLaren information first came into their possession. If so that particulary trophy would be headed in the direction of Ferrari. The 2006 Drivers Championship could accompany too as part of the same penalty although the 2007 fudge means that is unlikely.

At this rate I don’t know why F1 bothers holding motor races. Max Mosely is eager to cut costs. Perhaps each team should hire a cabal of lawyers and see who comes on top in the dock?

Today the world awaits the fate of the new rising star of F1, Lewis Hamilton. The odds are that the FIA will agree some fudge that sees the BMW and Williams cars disqualified but not the drivers. That will be good enough for Kimi to retain his title.

Whatever the outcome it won’t be especially satisfactory for the sport.


November 15, 2007 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

More reflections on Renault

More information about the circumstances surrounding Renault’s possession of confidential McLaren data has come to light.

The case concerns Phil Mackereth, who defect from McLaren to Renault in September last year. Earlier today Renault issued a statement:

Following the notification of the FIA for the ING Renault F1 Team representatives to appear in front of the World Council, the team wishes to clarify the situation.

On the 6th September 2007 it came to our attention that an engineer (Mr Phil Mackereth) who joined the team from McLaren in Sept 2006 had brought with him some information that was considered to be proprietary to McLaren. This information was contained on old style floppy discs and included copies of some McLaren engineering drawings and some technical spreadsheets.

This information was loaded at the request of Mr Mackereth onto his personal directory on the Renault F1 Team file system. This was done without the knowledge of anyone in authority in the team. As soon as the situation was brought to the attention of the team’s technical management, the following actions were taken:

The information was completely cleansed from the team’s computer systems and a formal investigation was started. We promptly informed McLaren of the situation and immediately after the FIA.

Since then we have constantly and regularly kept McLaren and the FIA informed on all relevant findings.

Mr Mackereth was immediately suspended from his position. The original floppy discs were impounded and sent to our solicitors for return to McLaren.

Our formal investigation showed that early in his employment with Renault Mr Mackereth made some of our engineers aware of parts of this information in the form of a few reduced scale engineering drawings. These drawings covered four basic systems as used by McLaren and were: the internal layout of the fuel tank, the basic layout of the gear clusters, a tuned mass damper and a suspension damper.

Subsequent witness statements from the engineers involved have categorically stated that having been briefly shown these drawings, none of this information was used to influence design decisions relating to the Renault car. In the particular case of the tuned mass damper, these had already been deemed illegal by the FIA and therefore the drawing was of no value.

The suspension damper drawing hinted that the McLaren design might be similarly considered illegal and a subsequent clarification from the FIA confirmed this based upon our crude interpretation of the concept.

ING Renault F1 Team have co-operated fully with McLaren and the FIA in this matter to the extent that the team has invited McLaren’s independent experts to come and assess the team’s computer systems and inspect the cars and the design records, to demonstrate that this unfortunate incident has not in anyway influenced the design of the cars.

ING Renault F1 Team have acted with complete transparency towards McLaren and the FIA, being proactive in solving this matter and we are fully confident in the judgement of the World Council.

Renault’s defence is that the team gained no advantage from having the McLaren data. That may be turn but is a shaky stance. Remember that the FIA couldn’t find a shred of evidence that the MP4-22 was contaminated by Ferrari’s technical data.

The omens don’t look good for the Enstone-based team and a swingeing fine could cause the parent company to pull out of F1. For the good of the sport the FIA must levy a fair (probably hefty) fine, but it would be a shame if that was the deaf knell for the team.

November 9, 2007 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment

2007 Review: Renault

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.

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

Recent Posts