JULY 6, 2002
Button, Alonso and Trulli
THREE into two does not go. And thus there are questions as to what is going to happen with the driver line-up at Renault F1 next year.
Team boss Flavio Briatore told the media at Silverstone that: "Honestly, we haven't decided yet. We don't know."
The speculation is that Jenson Button will be ditched by the team and that Fernando Alonso will take over.
For much of this year it has seemed that Button was likely to stay next year and with Jarno Trulli having a deal in 2003 there looked likely to be no change. This would make a lot of sense as building up a strong team involves continuity of drivers. Chopping and changing tends to set any team back as new drivers have to learn to work with engineers and so on. However when the likely replacement for a driver is the team's test driver it is possible that a switch could be made.
In the longer term it makes no real sense for Renault to continue developing Button as he will one day return to BMW and become a rival again.
All the current talk may be a ploy by the team to negotiate a deal with Button at a lower salary but at the same time there is no doubt that Fernando Alonso has impressed a lot of those within the team. But is it enough to get rid of Button? And why would team boss Flavio Briatore place two drivers who are contracted to his own management company together in the same team as it will inevitably mean that one is going to lose some of his value?
Alonso and Trulli are both Briatore drivers. The only way in which such a deal makes sense is if one of the two is coming to the end of his contract and so does not have a long-term value. Trulli has been managed by Briatore since the end of 1994 and, when the deal was first done, Trulli told reporters that it was for 10 years. Thus the deal may be coming to an end at the end of 2004. Trulli signed a multi-year contract with Renault in August 2001 and it is possible that the agreement was for three years and so the end of his Renault contract will coincide with the end of his Briatore deal.
It is possible therefore that Briatore will not mind putting Alonso and Trulli together, even if it does not make obvious sense...
However, as nothing is decided at the moment, this is all speculation.
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