I am not sure if the team has been distracted by Flavio Briatore’s wedding or his pictures (may be disturbing to some people) or what, but it looks to me like they are loosing their direction. If I were in Renault’s current position I would have two basic (and very interconnected) things on my mind:
1) 2008 or 2009 ?
2) Fernando Alonso – will he stay or will he go ?
It has been an open secret since the moment he re-joined Renault that this team may be just a stopover for him. Neither the team nor Alonso are hiding the fact that there is some sort of car performance related escape clause in Alonso’s contract. Alonso himself (at least publicly) has accepted the reality. He was well aware even before the season has started that the Renault car will be no match for the top this year. The reality is perhaps worse than he has expected but he keeps on doing the job. It is probably fair to say that he gets the car to the places it does not really belong to – front row start in Barcelona, very competive race pace in Canada (as long as it lasted). It is also fair to say that Renault are should be benefiting from having Alonso with them. Although I have never been a huge fan of Alonso, it looks to me to be the only one in Renault talking some sense these days …
Let’s rewind back to Canada. After the race Alonso openly criticized his team in Diario AS for the wrong strategy that he had apparently questioned during the race:
“The strategy was a big mistake. We could have won the race if we had stayed on the track rather than pitting with the safety car. What happened with Hamilton and Raikkonen is obviously not normal. We will not have many chances to fight with BMW for the podium. It was presented to us but not collected. I asked on the radio twice if they were sure that strategy was the best one, and they said yes. But when I saw Heidfeld in front, I realised that I was right.”
Alonso has resigned to the fact that this season is a write off and urged the team to switch their attention to the 2009 season development. In Renault they however seem to know better and this is what Renault’s technical director Bob Bell has to say:
“The car seems so be performing well on most circuits and that just reiterates that we’ve got a very strong platform now to go forward for the rest of the season. We’re under no illusion that we’re going to have to work very hard to keep that level of competitiveness up, but we have an aggressive development programme for the rest of the season, and we are confident that we have an adaptable baseline to work from. In the meantime, we take heart from the fact that the car seems competitive, we have a great driver in Fernando, and we just need to keep our focus and continue putting the developments on the car.”
Well, they do have Fernando but this is what he has to say about that:
“I will take a decision on my future towards the end of the year when we’ll be able to see how far we have come.”
Do they think in Renault that Alonso wants to see how far has their 2008 car development come ? Do they think Alonso is after few more points or an odd podium this year that this aggressive development may bring ? What good would that be for his (and Renault’s) 2009 plans and possible title challenge in the future ? The new aero rules mean brand new cars. It will be fresh start and fresh opportunity for all the teams. What better chance to climb back up the ladder can a title winning team in a two year slump like Renault wish for ?
Why then they seem to be so ready to both squander the opportunity 2009 season is offering to them and loose Alonso at the same time ?