APRIL 19, 1999
Dreaming - Supertec style
SUPERTEC's Flavio Briatore was wandering around the paddock in Brazil telling anyone who would listen to him that Renault's current adventures will have no effect on the F1 program, as he tried to dampen criticism of the engines he is supplying to Williams, Benetton and BAR this year.
Briatore says that there will be a series of upgrades for the engines this year but stories from Renault Sport - where development work is done - suggest that the company is having trouble holding on to its best staff as Toyota targets Renault and Peugeot, looking for engine men.
It is significant that in recent days Benetton and BAR have both been rumored to be looking elsewhere for engines in 2000 and both teams seem happy to pay the $5m penalty clause to avoid having to use the Supertec V10 engines next season. Hopes that Renault might return in an official capacity are absurd. Renault sources say that a Formula 1 program is not even under discussion at the moment and each passing day seems to bring Renault more troubles.
It was revealed last week that last month the European Commission's Competition Directorate raided Renault offices in Paris and Ireland, investigating claims that the company was stopping Irish dealers from selling cars to British residents, in breach of European regulations. If these allegations are proved Renault could be fined as much as 10% of its annual turnover. At the start of last year Volkswagen was forced to pay fines of $108m to the EU.
Renault's alliance with Nissan continues to produce surprises with Nissan last week announcing 1998 losses of $296m, three times more than had been expected. The Japanese company has been forced to suspend it dividend payments for the first time. Renault executives are spearheading a cost-cutting campaign at Nissan and last week the French company said that it might sell off Nissan's truck-building business to reduce Nissan's enormous debts. Nissan has also announced that it will cut 5000 jobs in the next few months.
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