Honda website
Honda website

AUGUST 7, 2006

And the next domino is about to fall

With Mark Webber signed at Red Bull Racing the next announcement due will be the signing of Heikki Kovalainen as Giancarlo Fisichella's team mate at Renault. There are already reports in Finland that this has happened and that would make sense given that the driver market is now on the move. The young Finn says that he is sure that he will race next year.

There is an interesting argument, given Fisichella's performance in Hungary, whether this is strong enough team to win the World Championship, but with the best drivers already contracted Renault has run out of options, having been caught on the hop when Fernando Alonso jumped ship to join McLaren in 2007. It might have made more sense for the team to have signed Webber but the fact that Red Bull wanted an experienced driver and Briatore controls Webber and Kovalainen made it logical for him to put Webber at Red Bull and Kovalainen at Renault.

The big question now is whether or not Briatore himself will stay with the team. He has already laid the groundwork for a departure with his remarks about wanting to change his lifestyle having had an apparent brush with cancer - originally announced by Renault to have been a kidney stone - and we hear that there are moves going on at Renault which may herald a restructuring. This is not unexpected given the new Renault management under Carlos Ghosn and we hear that a senior financial executive has been busy working at Renault F1 in recent months looking at the books and working out ways to make the team more efficient. This will not have pleased Briatore, who likes his independence.

One thing is for certain, even if Briatore does depart from the team, his drivers will be there for a while to come. Kovalainen is managed by Briatore and we have even heard suggestions that Webber might have an option to go to Renault in 2008 if Fisichella departs.