Renault’s revival could be overshadowed by the past

Today saw two very different announcements surrounding the Renault team with one looking towards the future and one very much focused on the past. Ewan Marshall looks into today s announcements and shows how the legacy of Singapore 2008 remains a constant blot on the French Manufacturer s copybook.

Given what else lay ahead, Renault would be forgiven for announcing some good news earlier this morning.

In a low key event Eric Bouiller was unveiled as the sports new team principal with Bob Bell allowed to return to his technical forte and develop the R30.

In terms of timing, today s announcement was symbolic – a “good news” story attempting to divert the Renault brand away from the court ruling which followed, involving two of its most decorated former employees.

Although Bouiller had long been speculated to take over at the helm of the Enstone operation, confirmation of the Frenchman s appointment can be seen as yet another step which underlines the resurgence of the team under new ownership.

Today s news follows two key declarations from Renault which reveal that the team s long-term future is now seemingly secure and that its new owners have a realistic action plan to return the team to winning ways.

Neither Bob Bell, in an interview before the new year, nor Boullier are kidding themselves when asked about 2010. With the future of the team having looked bleak for a number of months, this season s car will be nowhere near the front of the pack. Before, this would not have been acceptable for a team which was backed by a manufacturer heavily reliant on the fluctuating car market in deciding its marketing policy.

Now, with a patient majority owner, Renault has time to prepare for 2011 and once again attempt to challenge for motor sport s highest honour.

One significant piece of the puzzle looks set fall into place over the next few weeks with Robert Kubica s manager hinting that the Pole will honour the agreement signed with Renault last autumn and race. Kubica s determination will prove a valuable asset to the team with the departure of Fernando Alonso to Ferrari. Choosing a team mate for the highly-rated driver may not prove so easy though, with the gamble of youth having failed to pay off with Piquet and Grosjean.

Two men who will also be hoping for a new lease of life remain constant reminders of the Enstone outfit s past success. Having successfully overturned their lifetime bans through the French appeals process Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds are once again free to work within Formula One. Although both men will more than likely be labelled “damaged goods”, their possible return should not necessarily be discriminated against.

Symonds remains well respected within F1 s technical circles and is an undeniable asset to any team willing to weather the initial storm.

Despite his inability to shy away from controversy, Briatore s return should be welcomed in some respects. Formula One has lacked characters for sometime now, with the departure of Ron Dennis at the start of last season and the end of Max Mosley s FIA-tenure. Whether he can really return to the sport as a team principal is still unknown, but his ability to negotiate and take centre stage in a disagreement is second to none. Why else was he such a trusted confidant of FOTA during the political wrangling which unfolded in 2009?

Although the FIA may well be powerless to re-impose Briatore and Symonds bans, if they do decide and fail to appeal, the governing body will no doubt introduce a system to prevent this legal loophole ever being exposed again.

The French court was quick to focus on the fact that neither Symonds or Briatore held a license issued by the FIA. Because of this, it was felt that the World Motor Sport Council had no authority to issue such punishments.

However imposing drivers-style licenses on team principals will only result in the fallout from crash-gate rumbling on, as the governing body yet again employs a tactic to keep the sport within its own bubble and separate it from the everyday legal system of the outside world.

Even before such measures can be implemented Briatore and Symonds – rightly or wrongly – will no doubt find themselves back in the sport. It is quite understandable that racing in their blood and the lure back into Formula One is not something which both man will find easy to pass upon.

Of course their crimes should not be forgotten and it will be very hard for both of them to find employment in the next few months. However disgraced or not, they are now free to seek a way back into the sport (pending a possible appeal) and this must be accepted.

By then we will truly see if Renault s rejuvenation has been successful or not. Either way with Briatore and Symonds back in Formula One, the team will face a constant reminder of the events of Singapore for years to come.