Renault are perceived to be the team that will be unleashed in 2017 after this season’s interim period for the works team. The driver line-up for 2017 is a hotly contested battle that has linked some top drivers to the Enstone squad, including Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas.
The yellow-liveried team have only scored on one occasion so far this season with Kevin Magnussen’s great drive to 7th in Russia. There has been little progress since with Jolyon Palmer spinning out of 10th in Hungary, but the team remain optimistic for 2017, which will provide Renault with its first opportunity to fully develop and oversee its own operations.
Team Principle Frederick Vasseur has demanded leadership within the driver line-up for next season. He’s looking for a motivator who can unify the teams circa 1000 employees into a race-winning hive-mind. He wants a Ferrari Schumacher, a Red Bull Vettel, a Mercedes Hamilton or a Renault Alonso level of leadership, and said,
“A driver is not only about performance, but about being capable of leading a team.
Right now we have more or less a thousand people in the team, if you take Viry and Enstone together, and that needs some sort of emotional leadership — and that is the job for a driver! We need a driver who is super-motivated and able to super-motivate everybody else.”
The statement clarifies that Magnussen and Palmer could be on the way out and might have to look elsewhere for opportunities. Both drivers lack the Formula One experience to lead a works team to glory and Vasseur recognizes this, his comments must be taken as a catalyst for improvement from the young Dane and Brit alike. Vasseur said,
“They are improving! We know we are on the grid, so ‘improving’ is written in capital letters for us. It is too early to make any decision right here and now. We will probably do it at the beginning of September.
It’s not easy for them either. They have been used to winning in the past [in junior categories] — and now they are cut off from that. I see both of them improving. Keep in mind that Jo is rookie and Kevin did only one season [of F1] before — and that was two years ago.
Jo has been improving a lot — true he spun in Hungary, but so far he did a good job. And that also goes for Kevin. Both have a very optimistic approach. They are a good support for the team.”
Being “good support for the team” doesn’t quite hold the same magnitude against “a leader who can build the team around them”. Where will Renault find the driver they are looking for? They need someone who has more that 2 seasons of experience and understands the technical side, someone who can relate to a race mechanic as much as they can appease the top brass on the pit-wall. Perez has the ability to support a leading role within the team, but Force India seem to be going strongly. Will the Mexican risk overall performance for a driver role that could potentially see him craft a works team around him? We will apparently have our answer by early September.