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Renault to “build team around Kubica”
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Renault to “build team around Kubica”
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 May 2010   |  9:10 am GMT  |  56 comments

Over the weekend I had a chance to chat at length with the new owner of the Renault F1 team, Gerard Lopez, who is a fascinating character. One of the world’s leading investors in technology companies, he was a founder investor in Skype and is bringing some fresh thinking to this sport.

I will post separately on the wider topics of our conversation, which include his plans for Renault, how he is helping F1 engage with the internet and mobile phones and a whole new business model for an F1 team.

But the eye catching headline from the chat was what he said about Robert Kubica, who is a possible Ferrari target for 2011.


Kubica is having a strong season in the Renault, with 44 points on the board in only the fifth fastest car. He had a second place in Australia, fourth in Malaysia and fifth in China.

Recently there have been a lot of rumours suggesting Ferrari is lining up a move for Kubica as a possible replacement for Felipe Massa. He is known to be a favourite of Sergio Marchionne, boss of Ferrari’s parent company FIAT.

I spoke to Kubica’s manager Daniel Morelli at the weekend and he said that they have not yet been approached by Ferrari, but I got the impression that they were expecting some contact and should Ferrari make an offer, this would give Kubica quite a tough decision,

When I spoke to Lopez, I asked him how he was going to hold on to Kubica and he made it quite clear that he would build the Renault team around Kubica, in much the same way as Ferrari was once built around Michael Schumacher,
“He’s a racer, he lives for racing not politics, ” he said. “Robert has a unique opportunity to build a team around him. Few drivers have the talent that he has to do it and few teams would do it with someone.

“If he feels that the team is going in the right direction to become world champions, which is our intention, then he has no reason to go somewhere else. We both know what we are talking about (partnering Alonso at Ferrari). He would start a 100 metre dash, 200 metres behind the line. I don’t know if he’s interested (in going to Ferrari) but he’s a young driver, so he has plenty of time. If we can provide him with a car and a platform to win then I think there is a high probability that he stays.

“Our objective is to ensure that he contributes as much as possible. In his previous team (BMW) one of the big issues with Robert was that he couldn’t communicate as he wanted because he feared the backlash. Here he is being motivated and pushed to speak as much as he can. It’s a good fit. I’ve never seen him smile as much as he does now.”

Renault proved as recently as 2006 that it has the ability to win races and championships and most of the people are the same, with the obvious exception of Pat Symonds and Flavio Briatore, who left the team after the Singapore crash scandal.

Lopez has noticeably restored the self confidence of the team after the scandal,
“The thing I’m proudest of is that this team has regained confidence to act as a constructor,” he said. “This team is proud to be Renault. It thinks for itself and acts for itself, it’s proud of itself and all that with the Renault name. I knew we could do it, but I didn’t know how quickly it would happen or how much.”

Lopez said that he encountered negativity in the early stages after the Singapore scandal when going in to see companies, “But it’s our job to make sure that we got rid of that,” he said. “The talent was always there. We arrived from the outside and people know us from other sectors and know what we do. We said that we want to do the same thing at Renault and they got it straight away.”

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56 Comments
  1. IK says:

    Sad news for Petrov but probably it’s really the only strategy to hold Kubica

    1. Jodum5 says:

      Petrov is a rookie and hasn’t won anything of consequence. He should be simply happy to be in a good team, have a good teammate and a few years to develop his craft before he accedes to the top spot at Renault or finds greener pastures elsewhere.

  2. Formula Zero says:

    The link between Ferrari & Kubica is an interesting one. In one hand, Renault is a historical team & has a lot of involvement with all sort of motor sport. So, there’s no doubt Kubica will be treated as one of the most important part of the team & he deserves it. On the other hand, as a very talented & consistent driver his chance of winning the world championship is larger with Ferrari than Renault. However, Alonso is mostly likely going to finish his career with Ferrari. And as a result of that, it won’t probably be a wise decision for him to join Ferrari even if he is offered to do so. Ferrari has traditionally built a car that’s suited to the faster & more popular driver. Even though Kubica’s driving style is very similar to Alonso’s, it will still be tough decision to join a team where he will be treated as the 2nd best. That could potentially ruin his career.

    Perhaps in this case Kubica is better off with Renault than a team like Ferrari or McLaren. Certainly Renault will do everything they can to give Kubica a car to win the world championship. It all depends on how well they go with rebuilding the team after having such a rough time over the last year. Nice article James Allen

  3. Pete says:

    There is absolutely no way Kubica would reject an offer from Ferrari. Renault putting all their eggs in one basket is a big mistake, which would be a great shame as it can only end in tears. They might be able to do a straight swap for Massa, then try to build the team around him instead.

    1. Knuckles says:

      How is it different if Renault put all their eggs into Massa’s basket? (Ignoring for now that Massa is not the driver you build a team around).

      1. Pete says:

        If Renault were smart they would sign Felipe for 3 years, which gives them plenty of time to develop a good car around him and his style. Hopefully by the second year into his contract he’ll have got some wins & confidence under his belt, then they can talk about taking the titles.

        Kubica only took a 1 year contract with Renault, which suggests he doesn’t envisage a long-term future with the team and is just there to tread water until an offer from one of the big boys surfaces. Which could either be Red Bull or Ferrari at the moment. Renault simply dont have enough time to build a car good enough to convince Kubica to stay.

    2. Mario says:

      There is absolutely every chance Kubica will stay at Renault. The only reason he has got one year contract is that he wasn’t sure what the new owners were like. He gave it a go and he seems to like it there. As he said many times he just hates jumping from a team to another because he acknowledges it takes time to bed oneself in. Plus, he was let down by the BMW and he doesn’t want this to happen again. Also he is a kind of a bloke able to resist the hype around Ferrari and I never heard him say driving Ferrari was his dream. Additionally certain Spaniard is his friend and I got a feeling they both know being employed by the same team, especially by a team like Ferrari would cause damage to that friendship.

      I bet Kubica stays at Renault.

      1. Pete says:

        Valid points, but history has shown again and again that drivers will pick car performance over every other factor when it comes to deciding to move team. And I don’t think anyone believes Renault will have a better car than Ferrari or RBR next season. Lopez knows this, and this is why he’s making this offer to ‘build a team around Kubica’ public. He’s scared of losing Kubica, and rightly so. He can’t promise a faster car or more money so he’s offering the only thing he can.

    3. tota says:

      What for should he go there?

  4. pawelf1 says:

    Hope that Kubica will find his ways in Renault. He is a good driver and knows whats he capable of

  5. Seb Sobecki says:

    It’s good to see your sharp analysis slice through all the mist surrounding Kubica’s rumoured move to Ferrari. You’re the expert, but what your interview with Lopez is telling me is that the Renault boss is fighting to keep Kubica. And that in itself is evidence for tanglible interest from the Scuderia. Lopez’s sales pitch aside, Alonso and Kubica strike me as compatible despite their friendship. Their driving styles are not so fundamentally different that it would result in a tug-of-war over the direction of the car’s development. Besides, Ferrari with Alonso and Kubica would be the one team no one could accuse of using team orders.

  6. We both know what we are talking about (partnering Alonso at Ferrari). He would start a 100 metre dash, 200 metres behind the line.

    A very revealing quote.

    1. Jodum5 says:

      Seems very true to.

    2. Drez says:

      And who gave that quote…. The person DESPERATE to kepp Kubica… pleeeeeese!!!

  7. PaulL says:

    Interesting that they would publicize that kind of message. There’s at least a risk of downing Petrov’s confidence, and I think he’s been alright so far.

    1. Stevie P says:

      I feel Petrov is totally aware of this (and has been since he signed up) and is happy for it to continue, in the short-term… he’s happy to have a spot in a decent team, with a decent car to showcase his talents. Would you rather be in a Renault or an Hispania?

  8. Sharp_Saw says:

    If Kubica remains at Renault and Massa leaves Ferrari, then would Raikkonen have an oppurtunity return to Ferrari? The reason I say Ferrari is because Webber are performing really well at Red Bull. So, why would Red Bull want to change a winning combination should they win both Championships this year.

    If Kubica does go to Ferrari and Massa joins Renault, then I would expect that a comeback for Raikkonen next year could be very unlikely.

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      Key question: does Kimi even care?

      :-)

      1. Ma Haokun says:

        Thumbs up!

  9. Enrico Fiore says:

    fantastic to hear about a driver who lives for racing not politics. Must be better for him to keep well away from ferrari. Lopez seems to be a rare breed of manager who understands that a happy driver is a successful one. These people are definitely going places.

  10. Adrian says:

    “Renault proved as recently as 2006 that it has the ability to win”

    Surely 2008 as even if you discount Singapore they still won at Fuji…

    1. Henry says:

      I think he is referring to championship rather than race wins.

  11. Fausto Cunha says:

    I like Lopez optimism and his confidence. That team has the experience and potencial to win, nobody gives them credit at the beginning of the season but their are in the fight with the Mercedes and not far from Ferrari and Mclaren, specially with Kubica.

  12. Henry says:

    It is interesting that he is so sure that Renault have put the race fixing scandal behind them – I for one cannot forget about it and although the absence of Flavio helps I think it was not resolved satisfactorily. Which is a shame.

    Kubica should stay at Renault if he has any sense, at least while Alonso is at Ferrari – there is no need for him to be a no.2 driver within a team that is know to create unequal opportunities for the second driver. Renault probably do have the ability to succeed in the years to come, he would have to feel very strongly that he could carve his way into Ferrari if he was to go, or that Renault just dont offer him enough.

    1. Bill Day says:

      It’s not Renault’s fault that the scandal was never resolved satisfactorily. That’s down to Max’s incompetence.

    2. Paul Kirk says:

      Henry, I’m sorry to hear that you still hold a grudge against Reno! Still, I supose it’s your personallity,and it probably shows up in your day-to-day life, (sadly).
      Let sleeping dogs sleep, I say!
      PK.

  13. bouke says:

    I never really cared a lot for Kubica in the past, although I did feel sorry for him in the 2nd half of 2008, as BMW threw away his changes to fight for the championship (and only to produce the 2009 non-contender, as it would turn out!). Seeing him this year, happy, solid and fast in a dependable and progressing Renault is very good to see though.

    I think they may have a shot at passing Merc if they keep up their lackluster performance, and could well see him fighting for more again next year with this team.

    He is apparently a friend of Alonso, but I am not so sure their friendship would survive teaming up with him. I hope he stays with Renault.

    1. me says:

      2nd half of 2008 was not only development of 2009 car but also focusing on helping Heidfeld. They switched to help Nick because he was struggling in quals and races because of problems with tire temperature. They decide to forgot about chance to win WDC bacause of problem of their slower driver ! WTH! Kubica has a chance to win WDC even 3 races before end of the season… He lost 3rd place for Kimi by 1 point… :(

  14. chris green says:

    James :
    I’m a great admirer of Kubica. Probably makes less mistakes than anyone else. He’s the complete package.
    Tough decision on whether to go to Ferrari. I’m not impressed with the Alonso way of operating. I lost a lot of respect over the 2007 Mclaren fiasco.
    I think Red Bull would be a better option for Kubica.

    1. Gareth says:

      Especially if Ferrari or Merc land Vettel as apparently they are trying……

  15. Darren says:

    after flabio left ive started to warm to Renault, kubica for me is up with JB, LW and ashamed to say F.A

  16. m de p says:

    nice words, but when ferrari calls, a driver obliges. Gerard lopez, is a good motivator, but f1 is not like any other business. He is going to have a though time keeping kubica, if the car doesn’t improve during the season, and that’s a tough call, seeing how far ahead the red bulls are at the moment.

    1. Mikey says:

      But those Red Bulls have exactly the same engines! It must be frustrating but at the same time reassuring, to know that at least your engine can do the business and you just have to improve the rest of the car.

  17. korzeniow says:

    I think if Renault want to keep Kubica, they have to push really hard with developments right now and show him that this team still has what it takes.

    Otherwise Kubica will go to the Ferrari. He waited long enaugh for the championship wining car.

    1. Zobra Wambleska says:

      Kubica has been waiting a long time to get a competitive drive, but what makes you think going to Ferrari would give him a championship winning car? Forgetting, for a moment, that Alonso is there, Ferrari hasn’t had a dominant car in some time now. I don’t think Kubica would make that move based on his current options, I know I wouldn’t.

  18. Tim Lamkin says:

    It would be incredibly good for F1 to have this a success story, from what you right JA this gent seems to be good for racing, I look forward to more on how and what he is bringing new to F1.

    How soon are you going to put it up.

  19. chris green says:

    I’m a great admirer of Kubica. Fast and probably makes less mistakes than the rest.
    Tough decision on the move to Ferrari. I wouldn’t want to be Alonso’s team mate for all the tea in China.
    I think a move to RB would be better.

  20. Aramis says:

    Renault are good people, but Ferrari is Ferrari, that’s every driver’s dream.

  21. mayhemfunkster says:

    I am very impressed how this team has regrouped. When we first heard that a mysterious investment firm were buying the team and they were hiring unfancied, funded, Russian drivers, you began to wonder.

    But Genii seem to be letting the racers race, and are worrying about getting the resources and culture for the team in place. Petrov is also a sensation – who would have thought he would be more impressive than Hulkenberg (even given the wobbly nature of this years’ Williams)?

    All in all a very impressive turnaround. And that is without Pat Symonds who I would have thought would have left a gaping hole in the technical team there.

    Well done guys! And that is difficult to say coming from a Williams fan who’s team has been somewhat humbled by Renault this year.

  22. Pawel says:

    I believe everyone would love to be on board with a captain like Lopez is – a right man in F1!
    As I’m fan of Kubica and I’m happy that his boss believes in him. This is a fantastic opportunity for Kubica to be creative in broad aspects of F1 racing. Kubica loves driving so he will have to consider his bright future in Renault , however is Renault able to deliver the winning car?
    I agree with Chris Green that RB would be a better option for Kubica. pitty

  23. lukasz r says:

    Great read!
    This is a huge offer from Lopez I hope RK will consider it.
    Anyway I’m really looking forward to a great combination next year:
    RK+Renault+Michelin this just might be the right mix!

  24. James D says:

    I think it would be better for F1 if Kubica stayed at Renault and they got their act together and joined the front runners. The more teams competing the the top spot the better in my opinion.

    However, I also don’t think it would be a particularly bad move for Kubica to join Alonso at Ferrari. OK, the Ferrari team seem to love Alonso but it’s also likely that Alonso will have a paranoid delusional emotional breakdown, 2007 style if Kubica is a bit quicker than him!

  25. tim says:

    Money

    Ferrari pay very very well. Depending on how much he has put away at BMW/Renault Kubica may see 3 years at Ferrari as a way to total secure this long term financial security. As a plus he should win a number of races and may be a title.

    1. mvi says:

      But Kubica doesn’t seem to be motivated at all by the money. He just lives and breathes racing.

    2. me says:

      Kubica took 14 mln of USD from BMW in 3 years. Now 8 mln from Renault. It should give him financial security for many years.

      He needs fast car, good team and the track :) No more, no less. :)

      No money can catch him into bad team.

  26. He certainly seems very happy at Renault, I don’t think it would be a clear cut decision for him to leave

  27. Gary Smith says:

    Kubica must be on the short list every team principle’s driver shopping list, surely? He’s always ahead of the car, rarely makes mistakes and iss always giving it 100%, whatever the circumstances.

    Renault must seem like a breath of fresh air compared to BMW and although Alonso continually waxes lyrical about the Ferrari family, I doubt Kubica would be so gushing playing second fiddle to the Spaniard.

    Having said that, it takes a very confident driver to say ‘no’ when Ferrari come knocking.

  28. Stuart Fenton says:

    Fernando and Bobby K are great friends apparently. I cant see either of them wanting to get into a working relationship that would add dispute and disruption to the friendship etc. I can see Kubica following in Alonsos foot steps after he leaves Ferrari, like Alonso “put a good word in” at Renault before he left. Remember, Alonso said Ferrari will be his last team. But that could be 3 years or it could be 7. I’d love if either Bobby or Webber got the ferrari seat for the reason it would pretty much mean race wins. both are great guys and great racers, they deserve better!

    1. Grabyrdy says:

      That’s a dream scenario, but FA could hang on for 5 years. Will Kubby (Kuby ? Bobby ?? – where did that come from ?) be prepared to wait that long ?

      Anyway, it’s perfectly clear. If Renault want to keep him, they have to build him a car that wins. They know that – we all know that.

  29. Chris says:

    Very interesting article James. I find it puzzeling that Lopez is already talking like he is going and that they are already trying to hold on to him. Kubica is like a young motivated Kimi, un-political, un-complicated and stupidly quick. He can compete with anybody and is allot quicker than the car he is in however going in to a team that for the next 5 years is going to be built around Alonso would a bit stupid. Ferarri are going to go down the Schumacher route with Alonso and build the team and preform around him. If he needs to ask advice just get him to speak to Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barichelo.

  30. RickeeBoy says:

    My Musings only,
    Ferrari would be insane to leave Bobby out there for other teams + I believe teams these days teams MUST have 2 drivers capable of winning the championship – therefore a big offer from Ferrari as equal No.1′s-

    RB of course will be needing a No 1 from 2012 as SB could very possibly be off to Merc in 2012 – therefore I could see RB making a big play in 2011 for a multi year contract to Bobby to keep them going past 2012. ( RB so deserves to stay in the top 4 but will the big hitters steal the good drivers ? – Here’s hoping Renault continue with a new engine and stay in F1 as an engine manufacturer) –

    So …. Renault offering a long term team / and engine to Bobby with full backing as No.1 and he has a huge amount of input + methinks he’s HAPPY there ….

    The Boy seems to have a difficult decision ??

  31. mvi says:

    I am really happy to see Renault recover. They know they have a potential champion in Kubica and of course they want to keep him. (Didn’t Alonso once say he considered Kubica to be the best driver in F1?)

    Kubica is in his element and it is no time to think about leaving.

    Lopez has brought in some fresh air and excitement to the team and perhaps we will see a sequel to the Renault/Alonso story.

    Petrov can only gain from this. As others have mentioned he is starting in a better team than the other rookies. He has been such a surprise, a really exciting driver.

  32. Fulveo Ballabeo says:

    This is definitely Lopez’s best strategy to hold on to Kubica (not Renault’s, as they’re de-investing in F1). But Robert should talk to JV about future promises from challenger teams to build things around a driver. Things change, and JV found himself on the street (albeit with a bag full of money!). No, if a winning Ferrari team calls, Kubica will answer. And given his established friendship with Alonso, perhaps Fernando will be less of a whiny b*tch!

  33. Jean Doublet says:

    Ferrari has never been able to manage two top drivers at the same time. Alonso is now building the team around himself like Schumacher did and Massa is helpless. Moving to Ferrari next year would be the worst move Kubica could make. Renault has shown great abilities since the start of the season and Ghosn will certainly put more money into the team if he senses a world title is within grasp. Add a top on this the possibility of having 1500cc turbo engines returning to F1 in the coming years and Renault seems ideally placed to regain its top team status.

  34. jeremy says:

    im pretty sure Renault made a mistake by signing a rookie. if they hired someone like Heidfeld and he scored half the points of a Kubica, that would put them ahead of Mercedes already.

    i’m not unimpressed by Petrov i just think quick nick would have done a better job since the ’10 Renault ain’t a dog like the ’09 bmw

    renault finishes 4th that gives them more money to build a better car..

    kubica’s gonna be the highest commodity on the market after 2010

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