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“We’re walking through fire”; Renault reaction to latest setback
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“We’re walking through fire”; Renault reaction to latest setback
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Sep 2009   |  12:41 pm GMT  |  68 comments

New Renault managing director Jean-Francois Caubet has said that Renault has suffered immense damage to its brand and considered an F1 pullout. It has decided to commit itself to the sport, but must put in place a management structure that will keep the team true to Renault’s values.

Caubet: It's been humiliating

Caubet: It's been humiliating


This weekend has been utterly humiliating for the team so far, with the high profile rejection by two sponsors, ING and Mutua Madrilena. To be cast off like that by two blue chip international companies gives Renault a pariah status that is hard to comprehend for one of the world’s leading car companies. It shows how the colossal media power of F1, when used as a force for bad, can cause unimaginable damage even to a great institution like Renault.

There are the inevitable rumours this weekend that the team might be sold with the usual suspects like David Richards linked with the team, but Caubet spelled out that Renault has already gone through its self-analysis phase and decided to keep going.

“Faced with this affair we had a choice,” said Caubet to the French media last night, “To stop or to walk through the fire. We decided to walk through the fire and we’re coming out pretty burnt, because the image of the brand has been extremely badly damaged.

“If we had wanted to stop F1, we would have done it sooner, to spare ourselves from all of that. More than words, we are speaking through our actions. Whether it be in the development of drivers, the engine supply side or the engagement in our car for 2010, which is almost done. What is impressive is the coherence of the team. There were many tensions and they are still there, because we are asking ourselves a lot of questions; ING is leaving us, the money is difficult, what is the future of Alonso and of the business model for F1″

As for the future management structure of the team, Renault has given itself four months to come up with the right plan. On the rumours of Alain Prost making a return to F1 as team principal of Renault, my trusted French colleagues say that he has asked for a very high salary which isn’t playing well with the Renault management. There are some suggestions however that he may make an appearance in Singapore this weekend.

“We’ve opted for a temporary (management) solution because the team is bouncing back, ” said Caubet. “Obviously it has gone through a painful and humiliating shock but it is working. The technical direction is under control, the drivers are determined and Viry (the engine base) is little by little rediscovering its reliability. We haven’t followed up a single contact to find a team principal yet. First we need to determine the ideal profile, then find the right candidate. That could be December or January.”

Caubet admitted that by leaving Flavio Briatore a free rein in the management of the team, it had got too far away from Renault’s brand values and ultimately ended in a hugely damaging scandal,
“This team has to rediscover the Renault culture,” said Caubet. “It’s lost it a bit and it will be important to rediscover it. We have to rebuild links with the Renault base and on the ethical plan renew a respectful culture towards the rules and the sporting spirit. Beyond that we need to know what will be the tools which will permit us to manage the team in an efficient manner. We don’t want to fall back into ways of the 1980s when the corporate side ran the race team, but we also do not want to reproduce the errors which have been made in leaving the team too much autonomy. We give ourselves four months to find a good compromise, the right level of autonomy.”

The team has removed the ING and Mutua Madrilena stickers from its cars, but is not able to do so from the race shirts and overalls. So unless some rapid tailoring gets done, the ING executives will be unhappy to see their logos on the team personnel on TV pictures all weekend.

Interestingly they have placed previously unseen Renault stickers on the engine cover and other bodywork areas, which means that they may have had a heads up that they might need to bring out some stickers to replace ING.

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68 Comments
  1. Peter Hermann says:

    Daily Mail says witness X is Alan Permane. Can you confirm this?

    Would be such a blow to all who suspected Alonso….

  2. DAN says:

    If Renault can’t make a deal with Prost, they should bring back Patrick Faure.

    1. Rudy Pyatt says:

      Arnoux?

      1. DAN says:

        René is a top bloke that I had the pleasure to meet a few times at Goodwood but I am not sure he would want such job. The reason I was suggesting Patrick Faure is because I feel had it still been around at Renault last year he would have killed the crash idea in the bud and none of this scandal would have happened. He was here to control Flavio’s wild side and as long as he was around Flavio did only reasonable things. With Patrick gone Flavio’s power was no longer under control.

  3. Kedar says:

    Hi James, An interesting post as always. I am a bit concerned with “This team has to rediscover the Renault culture”. I remember you or your ITV colleagues had written abt a comment made by Ralf Schumacher that the problem Toyota was facing was that they had too much of the “Toyota Way” which was ok for producing good cars but was not the formula for winning in F1. Hope Renault dont go into that Route given that their expertise (unlike Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus, Spyker??) is in building road cars and not top of the line racers. I believe it would need a rather independent approach to run an F1 team. I read somewhere that Piquet might race for Campos!! (Looks like the Spanish have forgiven the bad name Piquet gave to Alonso’s team) and that Romain Grosjean crashed at Turn 17 :))
    Cant wait for the race!!!

  4. F1 Kitteh says:

    Walking thru fire .. always thought the color scheme reminded me of a circus tent …

    It reflects more badly on these two companies to pull out now, rather than standing by its partner. I mean is there anyone foolish enough to believe that ING/MM didn’t just use this as a convenient excuse? I would definately keep that in mind and avoid these two in the future. Hopefully the team can find a good solution for all the regular employees whose family depend on this business…

    1. artorwar says:

      TOtal rubbish. The sponsors may have been a touch oportunistic but lets be honest, an insurance company sponsoring a team that was involved in causing a deliberate crash is a bit of a paradox. Renault are to blame for this and not the sponsors. I also doubt either ING or the Madrilena would miss your business much.

      1. F1 Kitteh says:

        The ironic part is the insurance company turning their back on you after an accident … LOL

      2. Werewolf says:

        F1 sponsorship has always been a paradox itself to me. Corporate profile, high-achieving, exciting image? Perhaps.

        My favourite (post-sponsorship) liveries were John Player (Lotus) and Martini (Brabham), yet I’ve never bought either product; in fact, I’ve never been a smoker. Neither of our cars were built by an F1 manufacturer; and I think historically, I’ve only ever owned one car made by a contemporaneous F1-involved manufacturer (a Peugeot 205 1.9GTi, so that wasn’t based on F1 results). My bankers and insurance companies have no F1 presence and neither did my mobile provider until Virgin tied up with Brawn. None of my electrical items are Panasonic and I can’t abide Red Bull! My wife has a Philips shaver (werewolves do not need them)!

      3. michael c says:

        In the words of Michael Winner calm down its only a commercial.

        I agree this desertion by the sponsors looks opportunistic and I hope (big) Renault don’t forget that. Renault parent are not responsible for creating this mess – although they are responsible for sorting it out – and they should stop all the breast beating you are writing about and get on with getting back to the top (which surely shouldnt include Prost in any managerial form?) – and should stay for as long as it takes to get back on top. its the quitters that get the bad publicity – BMW take note

      4. Pay The Piper says:

        An insurance company that willingly wants to broadcast the message,
        ‘When things get sticky, at your most difficult moment, we’ll up and walk away’

        … or howsabout …

        ‘Hi, we’re the insurance company that likes to pore over contracts looking for get-out clauses’

        Really?

      5. artorwar says:

        But if you conspired to have a fradulent accident wouldn’t you expect your insurers to drop you sharpish?

  5. James H says:

    It sounds like Renault are putting in a long term commitment there–Simply to rebuild their brand.

    1. michael c says:

      and so they should

  6. Brian Morrison says:

    I can’t imagine how either ING or Mutua Madrilena could expect their logos to be removed from all of the Renault team’s clothing and equipment when they only had less than a day’s warning of the need.

    The two sponsors should have put up and shut up for this weekend and then made their announcements later. Doing it this way is simply kicking people when they are down and indeed perhaps they should have realised that the team will be determined to put this black mark behind them and hence their sponsors should have stood by them.

    Personally, much as I’m unhappy with this episode, it isn’t Renault I think less of now, it’s the cowards who have abandoned them in their hour of need.

    1. Kedar says:

      Ya I agree. Wonder if these Banks/Insurance companies accept moral responsibility for the Global Financial crisis apologize and pay up to all the people affected.
      Besides when none of this was known it was the ING Renault team that got all the limelight for winning the first night race in F1 and they made use of this in their marketing till recently. So now they are paying for their publicity!

    2. michael c says:

      absolutely agree

  7. Ian Curtis says:

    Yea, big shame for Renault.
    I think the sponsors leaving is a pain moneywise, but i think a change of colour scheme might not be a bad idea after all thats happened.
    Fresh start next year i guess.
    Interesting they want to embrace the sporting spirit.

    Could Renault go after Flav for damaging its image?

    None of htis continuing fallout bodes well for Flav’s appeal.

    Oh well never mind.. moving on then..

    1. Spyros says:

      Good idea about the color scheme change… maybe they should now go back to the blue scheme, from Alonso’s championship-winning years!

      1. jeremy says:

        they would need Telefonica for that to happen again.

      2. Brace says:

        Mild Seven, not Telefonica. :)

      3. Rudy Pyatt says:

        Then again, how about the traditional “French Blue” national colors and lay any sponsor decals over that? Never liked that Williams (and Brabham) took over the American Blue and White. All British teams should go BRG!

  8. Steve JR says:

    One can’t help but feel sorry for the hard working people at Renault who sweat blood and tears to get their car on the grid every race weekend only to have it all put in jeopardy by the very people who should know better.

    I for one hope Renault manage to get over the whole debacle quickly and stay in F1 for the long term.

    1. Stevie P says:

      Hear hear!

    2. Ian Curtis says:

      Yea me too.
      Gotta feel for the Renault workers.

  9. Werewolf says:

    So, while the guilty-as-sin Briatore ponders using legal processes to make a profit from his deserved demise (made possible by the FIA’s dubious handling), I wonder whether Renault may consider litigation against him for gross negligence, now that a significant financial loss has been incurred.

    1. Stevie P says:

      Although, I want this incident to vanish now… and for F1 to move forward, although I’m not too keen with the intimations on the Beeb site re: another scandal (anyone else see that or was it a figment of my imagination?)… I sincerely hope that Renault do!

      1. Neil Williams says:

        It’s at the very end of this article. Pray to Allah, Buddha, God or the kitchen sink that this isn’t true.
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8274036.stm

      2. mvi says:

        I saw that too! I wonder what the BBC has heard around the paddock.

      3. F1Artwork says:

        I wondered about that too, I posted about it on the previous story. Sarah Holt wrote:
        “The Singapore paddock was fretting with talk of another scandal to come before the season is out…”
        What can it be?

  10. Spyros says:

    Caubet’s reference to Alonso’s future is interesting…

    Here’s a question: since Alonso’s manager’s position has become vacant, who will negotiate his move to Ferrari..?

    1. James Allen says:

      Luis Garcia is his manager and has been for some time, he negotiated the McLaren deal in late 2005.

      1. michael c says:

        and that worked well…

      2. " for sure " says:

        Have I not seen many recent references to Briatore being FA’s manager? Did I dream it?

      3. " for sure " says:

        It was mentioned by Eddie Jordan today?

  11. Paul says:

    Like the free French at the end…

    “Enfin, Jean-François Caubet a confirmé que Renault avait abandonné ses poursuites contre Nelson Piquet”

    I think is: Finally, Jean-François Caubet confirmed that Renault has abandoned their legal case against Nelson Piquet”

  12. Chuck says:

    It is obvious to me that the two sponsors have taken advantage of the scandal and I do not like companies that take advantage in such a way.

    My brand image of ING and Mutua Madrileña has lowered by their withdrawal behavior.

    BTW, Mutua Madrileña is not a Blue Chip by any standard. Not even by Spanish standards (Mapfre is an Spanish Blue Chip and AGF is an international Blue Chip from the insurace sector)

  13. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    I hope that Prost takes over. Although ironically he says that first left Renault because he could not stand the French!

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  15. Scott says:

    I agree completely with whats said above about Renault sponsors jumping ship at a pretty inappropriate point in the season, and in the whole race fixing saga! Bad form.

    What I’d love to know is why Prost is being considered as a team principal over some of the other names? A successful driver yes, but not a successful team owner, although I don’t really know why his team failed, and why his proposed management of Renault F1 would be any different?

    1. GP says:

      I agree with you Scott, Prost was a great driver but a poor team owner. I remember reading an in-depth article on the demise of the Prost team in Bernie’s old magazine. I couldn’t believe how naive he was. He was about to make a deal with the son of a member of the Saudi royal family and he just blew it. I hope for the team’s sake that he doesn’t get the job.

  16. Vinay says:

    Its really astonishing to see that actions of a handful of men can do such damage – to a company – to hundreds of employees of Renault.

    Makes me wonder if the punishment meted out to those involved was sufficient at all. Who will judge the responsibility of these men towards the whole of the renault f1 employees?

  17. Armando says:

    James –

    Given the Singapore government’s -ahem- harsh attitude towards prosecution of alleged crimes, I would think FB should be more worried about that than about a likely loser of a dustup with the FIA (whether in the Court of Appeals or in the French Courts).

    What, if anything, is the paddock saying about the possibility of a prosecution of FB or Piquet Jr.?

  18. Ben says:

    Hello James,

    I was wondering what your reaction to Alonso’s quote:

    “It doesn’t lose any value because of Nelsinho’s crash, because that happened in lap 14 and there was still a long way to go. The race wasn’t decided there. We won because everything worked perfectly. We were faster than anybody else and I didn’t make mistakes. I ran out of water at the end, and I was feeling sick at the podium. I risked my life like every race and things worked fine. And I won.”

    It seems that he doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that he went from last place to the front in a matter of a few laps and on a good strategy because Renault cheated to put him there. Were you surprised by his attitude, in particular the comment that ‘everything worked perfectly’ in regard to this race where their team committed the most heinous act of cheating I’ve ever witnessed in F1? Or is this just the usual shameless Alonso attitude we should be useful by now…

    Cheers,

    Ben

    1. James Allen says:

      It all seems quite academic now, especially when you consider that at the next race he won again because he was opportunistic at the start. It showed that Renault didn’t need to be so desperate in Singapore

    2. GP says:

      Before the start of the race my TV set blew up and I ended up watching the live timing on Bernie’s web site. The only information I had was the lap times, gaps, and the limited written commentary. I remember how impressed I was by Alonso’s race. At some point in the race he was so much faster than anybody else it really stood out and his consistency was unbelievable. The guy was driving like a man possessed and never made a single mistake, as the consistency of his lap times showed. Whether he knows or not about crashgate, he was by far the best driver on that day.

      1. Ben says:

        There’s no denying that alonso is one of the fastest and most consistent drivers in f1. However, in a race where overtaking opportunities were virtually non-existant you have to say that alonso wouldn’t’ve been able to set those times had he been back in 15th behind trulli or one of the other slower cars. While I respect the fact that he drove very well and acknowledge that he knew nothing about the crash conspiracy, I think alonso is devaluing his other wins by ranking this ‘fixed’ win alongside them. The fact of the matter is that alonso only won that race because his team cheated to give him the opportunity to do so.
        Granted he was faultless once he was moved from last
        place to effectively first, but I still think he should have the humility to admit that the victory is tainted. It’s just a bit disappointing to hear him say ‘everything worked perfectly’ with regard to a race that was fixed and has been refered to by many as the biggest scandal to hot f1 one.

  19. Martin P says:

    If I were Renault I’d sell the race team but stay in F1 as an engine supplier.

    They have no star driver, no title sponsor, no team principal and no back pocket full of cash in the current climate.

    Focus on providing strong engines to multiple teams and take the kudos that comes with them winning. Williams-Renault sounds good!

  20. Lola says:

    I wish renault best of luck on their endeavor.

  21. adrian says:

    Practice 2: Alonso runs light at the top of the time sheets; Grosjean puts it in the wall. Do I detect a potential race strategy…?! ;-)

  22. John says:

    Props to Renault.

    They could have used this as the excuse to walk away. Instead, they’re taking some serious lumps and committing themselves to F1.

    I hope things return to positive for them soon. I think Renault is paying a heavy price for poor decisions of a couple key people. Of course, Renault isn’t completely without blame, since they are the ones who hired Flav and let him have control.

  23. Dan Jackson says:

    “Walking through fire”

    Is that more or less dangerous than “crashing into walls”?

  24. Toby says:

    James – has your excellent mobile version moved or is it gone for good?

    It significantly improves the experience of your blog on a mobile device, which means I read even more avidly. Please bring my mobile skin back!!

    Cheers

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s coming back soon. A technical issue as a legacy from the crash we had on Monday due to totally unforeseen traffic spike after the Renault verdict.

  25. Guy says:

    Hi James,
    Love the blog by the way. Just a Quick question. I’ve been amazed at
    how much coverage of crashgate there has been on the times, they seem
    to have had a scoop on the leaks and have really hammered Renault
    flavio etc. Who do you think is behind this, bearing in mind it was
    newsinternational that broke the mosley scandal. Just wondered what
    you thought as it’s seemed disproportionate which made me believe
    there was a hidden agenda!
    Many thanks

    1. James Allen says:

      Not really, it’s been quite spread around. Autosport had it first, Times had some bits, Mail had others. It’s the leak venue of choice for some of the top people, but on this one I think not more than others, particularly

  26. graham says:

    off topic communique for james…

    when will you write about ecclestone’s predictable endorsement of todt? open the vforum up to that for the fans to weigh in on.

  27. Slide says:

    I’m waiting to claim my few hundred quid from Brawn winning the championship, then that’s it for me. The “sport” at the moment is purely a sequence of stupid tattletale, with the occasional hour or so of people driving round in single file.

    Too much corporate bs and primadonnas. Not enough actual racing.

    1. James Allen says:

      Have to disagree with you there. It’s been an insane year for polemics and drama off track, but we’ve had some cracking races too

      1. Werewolf says:

        I’m with James. It’s been a great year ontrack – and that is what really matters. The diffuser controversy was pure F1, albeit caused by poor rule drafting, and the media scrums surrounding the Hamilton-Ryan saga (I steadfastly refuse to use the ‘gate’ suffix) and Singapore 2008 seem to have been deliberately fuelled by the FIA. I’ll be damned (or should that be whipped) if I’ll let someone as contemptible as Mosley has become ruin my F1.

        This has been an unsavoury time – and annoyingly so – but the guilty have been eradicated and soon too will Mosley, so let’s move on with enthusiasm.

  28. Penfold says:

    Right i’m bored of this driver speculation. I’m going to put my predictions for 2010 forward and would be pleased if everyone follows suit. Kimi and Massa stay at Ferrari, Alonso to Brawn, Rosberg to Mclaren, Kubica and Hulkenberg to Williams. Oh and 1 question is Anthony going to get a drive James?

  29. Penfold says:

    Oh yeah and according to sky sports, Nelson ‘the shunt’ Piquet and Anthony to Manor.

  30. Matt Preston says:

    A walk around the pits last night after P2 revealed more ING logos removed from the walls of their garage. Although there are some still present. I was impressed how quickly they replaced the stickers on the cars though.

    Is it possible teams carry replacement stickers in case sponsors terminate contracts or the team itself wishes to remove the sponsor over some kind of pay dispute? Just a thought.

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