Renault have been managing expectations since the day they acquired the Genii-owned Lotus team. This of course deflects potential pressure from fans and the media alike, however it raises the question of Renault’s understanding of the commitment required to make it back to the top – or even top four – in Formula One?
With a somewhat fatalistic mentality, Renault’s Chairman Carlos Ghosn argues, “three years ago, Red Bull was dominant for five years, and people said ‘oh my god what is going to happen?’ Change comes.” Ghosn continues, “there is a beginning and an end for everything and we will be very happy to participate in this uncertainty about victories in F1.”
However, to keen F1 observers there appears to be an ever increasing certainty that Mercedes are set to dominate Formula One for a number of years to come. The 2017 ‘big change’ regulations designed to throw the deck of cards up in the air and give someone else a chance of a breakthrough silver bullet have already been watered down significantly and could yet fail to be agreed for implementation before 2018.
There is no reason why Mercedes are not on course for a dominant era similar to the years between 1999 and 2004 when Ferrari racked up six constructors titles one after the other. Ferrari at present appear to be fearful as to whether they have reduced the gap to Mercedes for 2016. Sergio Marchionne revealed over the winter break, “If I was to give a tip to myself and the team colleagues, it is to be extremely afraid of their rivals.”
The Scuderia team principal agrees with his boss, “we’re working very hard, we’re very tense, we’re terrified because we’re afraid of the future, so we’re not relaxed,” said Arrivabene.
One reason may be because Andy Cowell – the main man at Brixworth, where the Mercedes power unit is built – believes there are still huge gains to be found in the V6 turbo hybrid’s performance. This view is also expressed by Adrian Newey who describes the power units as “still in their infancy.”
So are Renault in need of a reality check, and do their ambitions need to be higher?
Alain Prost disagrees. In fact the quadruple F1 driver champion is lowering the bar even further when he tells AMuS, “Winning the world championship is not necessary for Renault,” despite the French team having laid out a nine year plan for their Formula One team. Prost adds, “for Mercedes or Audi, winning is much more important, while for us the world title would be a bonus.”
The Red Bull aerodynamics guru Adrian Newey hit the nail on the head earlier this week when he accused Renault of being unrealistic in terms of their spending commitment to make it back to the top of the F1 tree. In the chase to catch Mercedes Newey states, “manufacturers like Renault – who are not willing to spend the money – the gap will become bigger and not smaller”.
The utterances from Prost and Ghosn appear to reveal a lack of self-belief from Renault and indeed possibly a realisation that the F1 game is up for the medium term. Formula One championships are not won on a round-robin basis – ask McLaren and Williams – and Ghosn’s hope that the merry-go-round will eventually turn Renault’s way reveals the gulf between what is being done by Renault and what is required.