Today Renault was at the centre of two stories. First Kimi Raikkonen distanced himself from the team’s recent suggestions that he was in discussions with them about next year and then the team announced that managing director and former technical chief Bob Bell had left the team.
Team Principal Eric Boullier has been promoted to managing director and so now holds the exact same position as Flavio Briatore held.
“I am very disappointed with the way they have used my name for their marketing,” he told Turun Sanomat newspaper. “I have never seriously considered driving for Renault, and I can assure you 100 per cent that I will not be driving for them next year,”
Raikkonen’s current deal is with Red Bull who fund his drive with the Citroen junior team in rallying. This contract needs renewing for next season.
It seemed odd when Boullier mentioned the talks with Raikkonen, first because teams and drivers normally want to keep these things quiet and second because the Finn had made many disparaging remarks about F1 during the course of the year.
Boullier reiterated in Singapore that the team hopes current second driver Vitaly Petrov will raise his game sufficiently in the final races of the season to justify being retained for 2011. The Russian has had an erratic season with some strong performances punctuated by mistakes. But his presence in the team is a very useful platform for the commercial department to develop business relationships and sponsorships in Russia.
Boullier has rubbished Raikkonen’s claims this weekend, “We have not piggy-backed on Kimi’s image at all, which is what he has been claiming in the press,” Boullier told Autosport.com.
“We were contacted by his managers after Spa. They wanted to enter into discussions and at that time we said: ‘Please wait. Yes, we are very flattered that you have contacted us, but we need to finish the evaluation of Vitaly’s [Petrov] potential and from that point, when we have our own conclusion, we will get back to you.’ There was nothing else.”
Meanwhile Bob Bell is no longer with the team, having left his role as managing director, which he held since the Singapore crash scandal blew up last Autumn. When Briatore was removed, Bell took over as team principal for the final part of 2009, prior to the take over by Gerard Lopez’ Genii Capital company.
Bell rose to the top as an engineer, starting out at McLaren before working as number two to Mike Gascoyne at Jordan and then Renault. Bell took over in charge of the technical department, when Gascoyne left for Toyota. He worked closely with Pat Symonds, Bell overseeing the design and build of the car, Symonds overseeing the racing of it.
There is no word on where the Northern Irishman is going next but his technical management skills are likely to be in demand in the pit lane. He may even be reunited with Gascoyne one day.