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Senna manages expectations as Heidfeld goes legal with Renault
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Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Aug 2011   |  5:18 pm GMT  |  53 comments

There was drama in the Spa paddock this afternoon as the jilted driver in the Renault camp, Nick Heidfeld, turned up wearing team gear and saying that he has a valid contract to race and has launched legal proceedings against the Renault team.

His replacement, Bruno Senna, said that he has a confirmed deal for two races, Spa and Monza and that beyond that it depends on some legal issues but that “the intention is to do the rest of the season.”

Renault confirmed this at 4pm with a statement saying, “The team’s present intention is to give Bruno the opportunity to race for the rest of the season. However, some legal issues have not been fully resolved as yet and, as a result, the team will make another announcement on this matter in due course.”

The picture is further clouded by French sources who suggest that the plan for some time has been for Romain Grosjean to drive the car from Singapore onwards.

However it seems that the recent fund management deal between Renault team owner Genii and the Brazilian WWI Group has changed things a little. The picture should become clearer when Genii boss Gerard Lopez comes to the circuit. Last night Heidfeld’s management team issued a statement about its intention to force its position through the courts and said that it belives money lies behind the decision and that the move had been made “for apparently purely financial reasons. We do not intend to rest before Nick’s legal position has been fully restored.”

Heidfeld looked quietly defiant as he stood in the Spa paddock outside the Renault motorhome answering questions. It looked a spontaneous move, his name was not on the Renault media schedule for the day and he was there to make his point. There was little he could say; he refused to say when the team told him that he would not be racing in Spa,

“There are court proceedings so I cannot tell you much,” said Heidfeld. Each driver wants to drive. I believe that I have a valid contract and I want to drive. We will see in three weeks, there is a main hearing and we will know then. I’m here with the team this weekend, I have a contract and I will just do what I can do.”

Meanwhile Senna said that his task, coming in half way through a season with no testing and just 25 laps of Free Practice in Hungary made it difficult to get to the level of the current drivers but he would do his best.

“It is going to be a big challenge to come back into the middle of the season, a bit later than the middle of the season, to go racing. But I have been participating in all the meetings with the engineers, and am up-to-date with all that is going on at team. Hungary was useful to know how the car could go, but it will be an uphill battle to get on the form of these guys, who have been racing for 11 races now. But I am really looking forward to it, hoping to progress fast and repay the faith the team has given me.

“I know I have to learn how to deal with the tyres from the first set to qualifying, and learn how to deal with tyres in the race. All this experience I don’t have, so it will be the first time. If I can be anywhere near Petrov, that will be a good reference.”

The challenge of getting the best out of the tyres in qualifying will be significant. Senna had only one set of tyres to work with in Hungary and set his fastest time towards the end of his 25 laps stint. At that time, on a similar programme to Petrov, he was faster, but getting it all together for the Q1 and Q2 laps will be the crucial thing. Although he had a season with the back of the grid HRT team last year, he seems to be treating this like his F1 debut proper, his chance to show the F1 world what he can do.

Asked about Michael Schumacher and his 20 years in F1 he said that he hoped to battle with the German for points on Sunday. Certainly the Renault is close on pace to the Mercedes so the prospect is real.

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53 Comments
  1. Alexis says:

    Eric Bouillier you’ve done it again. The bloke is liability.

    1. Michael C says:

      I don’t think we’re merely talking about Bouillier here. From the outside, it appears that the entire Lotus Renault GP team enjoys a lousy corporate culture, from Genii, Lotus’ involvement via Danny Bahar, and even some remnants of the old Renault team.

      1. Alexis says:

        Bouillier seems to be particularly poor at driver handling though. I was astounded that Petrov was around this year after the way Bouillier thoroughly berated and demotivated him. He made it perfectly clear Petrov only stuck around because he couldn’t replace him with Raikkonen.

      2. Michael C says:

        Yes, I will gladly concede that point. Bouillier has also said some very derogatory things about Petrov that, true or not, should never have been said.

  2. Casimir says:

    Renault have dropped the ball here. This is not the sort of attention sponsors enjoy receiving, so they will have to hope the ‘promised’ money from Senna’s backers justifies their decision.

    Irrespective, they have crafted a situation that is not conducive to producing good results. Bruno Senna is on a hiding to nothing, how can they expect anything out of the guy? And if that is the case, why are you dropping a dependable driver in lieu of something thoroughly unknown?

    I know I am going to offend some in the Senna fan club, but there really isn’t a great deal to suggest he is any better than a variety of other drivers waiting for an opportunity.

    Heidfeld has consistently been slated for not performing to expectations, but just what were peoples expectations? Fighting for podiums? Well, he managed that once and otherwise that car has been nowhere close to podium-worthy.

    Heidfeld should take his settlement and accept a drive with Lotus/HRT/Virgin. I’m sure they will appreciate his developmental abilities.

    1. Tom Johnson says:

      Why should he ‘take his settlement’ and who says a drive at Lotus/HRT/Virgin is available.
      He’s doing the right thing in my view: sue for breach of contract and damage to reputation so that whatever money they get for taking on Senna finds its way in to Nick’s pocket.

    2. Michael C says:

      “This is not the sort of attention sponsors enjoy receiving”

      I’m not convinced of this, nor do I think the timing is a coincidence either. To quote the younger Senna,

      “Racing at Spa, a black and gold car, the yellow, green and blue helmet – wow, it’s quite a combination. If you put these elements together, it really is quite amazing – it has all come together very nicely indeed.”

      From http://www.formula1.com/news/interviews/2011/8/12436.html

      This probably sounds pretty good to the marketeers.

    3. chris says:

      dont mean to be cruel here,but its the only time i can remember heidfield being discussed at all,what is he??,like i say,i dont mean to be rude to him,but looking at the bigger picture of F1,heidfield just does not matter…….

  3. azac21 says:

    Good on Heidfeld!

    The situation is getting out of hand with drivers been changed like shirts. How can an F1 team say that it is seriously commited to winning races if they are operating like that.

    They definately want to increase their income from any possible sponsors but this is corporate business management and not racing in f1.

  4. David Hodge says:

    I suspect Heidfeld turning up was a legal move. Basically, to present himself able to fulfil his work obligations. It is the employer who has chosen not to use his services.

    As usual, the only people who will get rich are the lawyers – perhaps they should sponsor Renault instead.

  5. Jarman says:

    Good luck to him I say. He’s got real talent and deserves a try with a proper car under him. I feel for Nick though, like he says, he’s got the contract in place and to bring someone in with less than half of the season to go is a bit of a kick in the teeth.

    Good luck Bruno, hard luck Nick

  6. jonrob says:

    In these circumstances I doubt that Nico will give Senna the advanced cockpit escape and fire-fighting course that seems to be a necessary part of being a Renault driver.

    Senna beware, if it catches fire it’s your fault!

  7. Tyler says:

    This will be interesting to watch, odds are Senna will fair no better, Renault have become an investment entity for millionaires, not a race team. If they had kept pace with development they could still be getting podiums, BOTH drivers proved that early on.

    Nick is a scapegoat, I dont see why he wants to stay where he is not wanted… sounds like a poisonous place to work to me.

    1. mad max says:

      What other choices has he?

      Don’t think Senna will be any better but I think like you say this is all about money and nothing else. The rumors were they were in financial trouble and that would be why they couldn’t keep the development going.

    2. Michael C says:

      “Renault have become an investment entity for millionaires, not a race team”

      This is the REAL story here!

    3. Gary says:

      Tell those working at Enstone, many of whom were there when they were winning world championships, that they’re not a race team!

      Development during the season has largely been down to losing ground aero-wise relative to the opposition, and that’s because of the transition to the new 60% wind tunnel. Its a results driven sport, Nick’s performance fell short of what was expected. I see Senna as just a stop gap to get some publicity, expect Grosjean to get a seat next season.

      1. Tyler says:

        Exactly my point…they are no longer a championship winning team. Investment vehicle for fat cat bean counters….not real racers.

  8. Richard Mee says:

    You’ve got to feel for Nick. I wouldn’t like this to happen to me.
    But at the same time – life kicks you in the nads every now and then. I hope he doesn’t live to regret dealing with his righteous indignation/resentment (you pick) in quite such a public fashion.

  9. jmv says:

    Bruno Senna is fast and is intelligent. He just had his last name against him.

    I personally think if he started his career as Bruno Lalli, I think he would have been a lot further in F1.

    The pressure would have been less on the last name, and he would have gotten more credit for being the fast nephew of Ayrton Senna.

    GOOD LUCK BRUNO! MAY LUCK BE ON YOUR SIDE IN THIS DIFFICULT DEBUT WEEKEND!!!

    1. ESLKid75 says:

      The Senna name is not an easy one to bear for sure.

      A lot of people give him grief for being called Bruno Senna in F1, instead of Bruno Lalli. I just want to remind these people that Ayrton’s name was da Silva, and not Senna either.

      Ayrton raced under his mother’s name (Senna). Bruno is racing under his mother’s name (Vivienne Senna) as well.

      1. Arya says:

        Bruno is really fast. We saw it in the qualifying of the last race of 2010 when he was trounced by a guy coming back after 4 years in a car that Bruno had driven all year.

        What was the margin?? I guess 1.2s

  10. Andy says:

    You would have thought that when Renault offered Heidfeld the drive they would have given him a contract that had some get out clauses for Renault to cover themselves for such eventualities as this. The fact that Heidfeld and his management have gone down the legal route suggests that this is not the case.
    The usual route is to buy a driver out, Renault may have offered but rumours about their finances makes you wonder. If Heidfeld has been offered money to step down, it is likely he has rejected it because he would want to continue for the rest of the season in order to try to get a deal for 2012.
    Whatever the outcome it doesn’t make Renault look good.
    Sport at this level is a business, but you also have to have the passion for the sport to be successful. Any team owned by a private equity group, such as Renault, don’t fit into this. The team may have the passion but I seriously doubt that Genii do.

    1. Michael C says:

      “The fact that Heidfeld and his management have gone down the legal route suggests that this is not the case.”

      Not at all. No doubt LRGP have an out clause, but it’s probably performance based. It’s more likely that they simply can’t use the out clause because Nick is performing acceptably, ie exceeding the results of his teammate.

  11. Nick says:

    Ayrton always said that Bruno was quick.

    We havent seen it so far, even allowing for his machinery he hasnt really shone, against team mates for example.

    I’m pleased he will get a chance in a decent car, but the excuse time is over. He has to show flashes of brilliance or he will be history (money aside, of course).

    Shame for ‘Quick Nick’I remember him at Goodwood in the McLaren, setting the outright hill record. He has been out of luck this year, with dnf’s which were not always his fault. I wish him well.

    1. Mon Pen says:

      “Ayrton always said that Bruno was quick.”

      LMFAO

      Very funny. Very, very funny.

      I say good on Nick, show the team up for the utter farce that it has become.

  12. Keilly says:

    Ah well, that’s the end for Heidfeld. No team will hire him in the future now that he’s taken legal action against his current team.

    Thanks Nick, for all the years of racing in what is still clearly a dangerous sport.

    1. Tim. says:

      ..and he has had many chances, this is a good thing….time to let others try.

      1. DonSimón says:

        Couldn’t agree more. They shouldn’t have hired him in the first place, he has had plenty of bites of the cherry. Get a nice comfy Le Mans seat and enjoy putting some weight on!

        And as for the people saying things like ‘renault have become and investment programme, not a racing team’….I wonder if RK had been developing the car this season and the pace had improved, would you still be saying that?

        Not a big Renault fan, but it seems a bit of a knee jerk reaction to write the team off as an entity?

  13. Mike Hessey says:

    ‘Quick Nick’ has done a respectable job – yes, he isn’t what Kubica would have been if it weren’t for his accident, and his quali times have been disappointing, but the car isn’t that great. Will changing the driver make any difference? – I doubt it, and I sympathise with Nick, and any replacements who are probably on a hiding to nothing. The team has some questions to answer – do Renault really want their name associated with them in the future, and even if they outperform the ‘other Lotus’ team, I know which ‘Lotus’ I feel more inclined to support!

    1. moose says:

      Well that’s why Renault Promotes their car with Team lotus, not Genii with Renault name.

      Change the name already. Renault gets all the heat for nothing.

    2. Michael C says:

      “he isn’t what Kubica would have been if it weren’t for his accident”

      Why does everyone assume this? Nick consistently outperformed Kubica for the majority of the time they spent together in 2007-2009. For the three years, Nick scored 140 to Kubica’s 131.

      1. Michael says:

        Because Kubica is a do-or-die type, and Heidfield is much more clever and consistent. Alas, clever and consistent doesn’t make great TV, that’s why many people rate Kubica higher.

      2. snailtrail says:

        Im also getting sick of people saying this – Im not sure what people base their confidence in Kubica’s would be awesome results this year.

        I like Kubica – and think he’s got real talent – but how he would have performed in a new Renault with totally different tyres is anyone’s guess – its not a given he would have been doing better than the current drivers.

      3. toja says:

        Falacy. Look at DNF rate of Kubica and points he lost without his own fault.

  14. DH says:

    Bouillier seems more the problem with the team’s performance, or lack of. Seems he always manages to point at anyone else other than anything to do with him.

  15. Craig Taylor says:

    it’s a crying shame that they have forced Nick out of his seat and no formula one. He’s a talented guy and has brought plenty of points to the teams he has driven for, even when the performance of the car isn’t there.
    Personally i’d have replaced Petrov with Senna, but I guess it’s all down to money…

  16. Josh says:

    Sutil had the right idea.

    1. Jaw Jaw says:

      reckon so too

  17. El Shish says:

    Heidfeld should replace Trulli at Lotus. Two solid, likeable drivers driving for a team on the up. Not the nicest sign of F1 though – a driver clearly better than half the field unlikely to get a competitive drive again because there are more ‘marketable’ types around.

  18. wolf says:

    I guess Nick probably feels like doing a Sutil around now…

  19. Andy says:

    What is it with Renault and driver changes mid-season? Villenueve for Trulli with 3 races to go in 2004. Grosjean for Piquet half-way through 2009. And now Heidfeld for Senna. Makes you wonder how a driver for Renault can think his contract will be upheld!

    Tough break for Nick.. think this could be the last we see of him in F1.

  20. Breezyracer says:

    I feel for Nick a little .. it’s a shame to lose your ride like this and I think it’s good that Nick chose the legal route. Maybe contracts will really mean something again after this.

    I am though, terribly disappointed in Renault. The team seems to be a ghost of it’s innovative former self. Last year they were one of the more interesting aero teams on the grid. This year it’s all gone terribly wrong and have to wonder why they’ve come out and decided to stick with the forward exit exhaust.

    F1 is a development competition as much as anything else and with them being the only team that pursued the front exit exhaust that means 1 team’s development against maybe 4 good teams for the rear blown diffuser.

    There’s just no way 1 team can match the development of 4 teams unless the idea proves to be vastly superior, which the front exit exhaust has not. Not switching to the rear exiting exhaust is a serious error, not just for this season but also in future development as well.

  21. Dan says:

    Although Heidfeld may have a case when it gets to legal proceedings territory, even if he were to win a court case to race, the damage it would have caused to both parties and their opinions of each other would make it impossible for him to actually race for them. It would be like suing your company and then having to go to work in a horrible and probably prejudiced against environment.

  22. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    First key engineers leave, now their lead driver?

  23. simon says:

    Eventually the sword will follow Boullier who along with Lopez are both incompetent at running this Renault team.

    If it was all about money and F1 business $$$ than why did they go with Nick to start with.

    Bruno and Grosjean will not develop the car to be a rocket and Lopez thinks they can get 4th place!

  24. JH says:

    Rather crappy how they treat him. Best of luck, Nick.

  25. Michael C says:

    “The team seems to be a ghost of it’s innovative former self.”

    Indeed about 25% of its former self by ownership. The culture of the team is now determined by its majority parent, an investment firm based in Luxembourg called Genii Capital. Follow the money.

  26. Kevin says:

    Wouldn’t want to have to SUE to keep my drive. I would rather have it on merit. I doubt Renault feels they are losing much performance related replacing Heidfeld. If he had overperformed, he would still have the job, or another one would be waiting for him.

  27. Peter says:

    Boullier should first sort out himslef, he is putting the blame onto drivers all the time, excludes talking to Raikkonen just because he got offened, changes drivers all the time etc. Its not good for the engineers, sponsors, supporters or drivers. He is not an F1 level team manager in my opinion. The whole team is a bit of a mess, that is more characteristic to a small team culture.

    1. steve P says:

      I agree
      The Renault is going backwards quicker than a clown on a uni cycle,..[mod]

      If it were about results Petrov would go, they say F1 is ruthless and if it is then the points are what matters, Renault are coveting Senna’s money full stop. When both drivers finish a race it’s 5-2 to Heidfeld, Qualifying matters zilch if you don’t get more points than your team mate further back the grid.

      Shabby, very shabby, by comparison Williams are hardly setting the season alight, do you hear Frankie and Pat giving their two drivers curry publicly??

  28. Alex v says:

    Bring Danica Patrick in, at least we won’t only have the grid girls to eye!

  29. sp says:

    Heidfield, nice guy? seems so
    good with engineers? so the journo’s tell us

    BUT

    he does not have the ability, he is just short of being top drawer. never set the heather on fire has he? and lets be honest he has had a lot of chances.

    How can renaults behaviour be brought into question? if i dont perform at my work i get replaced.

    Good luck Bruno, as for nick i cant see how taking renault to court will get him his seat back? i dont think it will do him any favours. Accept it man and take the remainder of your wages and by some kleenex

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