OCTOBER 6, 2008
A revamp at Renault
Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore was in Paris last week to discuss not only F1 budgets but also a new structure for the Renault team. Briatore admitted before the trip that things are going to change and that he will be taking a role which will be less hands-on (not that hands-on was his speciality) and that there will be 'a director' responsible for the day-to-day running of the team. Briatore says that this person has already been identified and that this move will help him to "concentrate on more important things".
Briatore knows that the most important thing is to hold on to Fernando Alonso and to achieve this he must find more performance. Alonso may have won in Singapore but everyone knows that this was a stroke of good fortune which resulted from Nelson Piquet crashing at exactly the right moment for his team-mate to gain the maximum benefit in comparison to the opposition.
There is an opportunity to get back on top next year when the F1 rules changes but it is going to take a big leap of faith for Fernando to sign for Renault rather than wait to see what happens at Ferrari.
Despite the recent announcements about Kimi Raikkonen's future at Maranello, there are many who believe that the Finn will not be retained unless his performance improves and he stops making mistakes.
Renault's situation remains difficult. The company share price is down almost 60% compared to a year ago and car sales are flat or in decline. Renault has already announced plans to cut 6,000 jobs and there are no plans to try to break into the US market. The company plans remains to expand in Russia, India and in South America, which are all growth markets for F1 as well.
Ghosn has always said that that the F1 programme must earn its keep and the win in Singapore, fortuitous though it was, has helped but the key issue is whether Ghosn is willing to keep the budget at the right level at a time when pouring money into the sport is not easy, given that thousands are losing their jobs.