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Renault set for management shake up
Renault set for management shake up
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Jun 2011   |  2:14 pm GMT  |  76 comments

Renault team principal Eric Boullier did an interview in l’Equipe newspaper at the weekend, which contained some interesting lines that did not get wide circulation.

They deserve deeper consideration as they appear to hint that some key personnel changes are imminent.

Under the headline “We miss Robert,” the 37 year old Boullier starts out by saying that the team lacks race management and points to Robert Kubica’s leadership qualities as something that are sorely missing,
“Robert put himself in a leadership role,” he says. “He’s a demanding driver, who knows what he can deliver and what he wants from the team. When he sees that things aren’t happening he can smash his fist down on the table violently. But with or without him we haven’t been good enough as a race team.”

The interview doesn’t reflect particularly well on the two drivers Renault are tackling the season with. Nick Heidfeld isn’t mentioned at all and although there are positive noises about Vitaly Petrov’s progress, he clearly needs a lot of managing.

Boullier has some unusual things to say about Petrov. Claiming that the Russian mentality doesn’t go well with “the arrogance of the English” he says that Petrov has moved away from English engineers and trainers this year and is doing much better as a result. He has a Spanish trainer and his engineers are Japanese and French.

Perhaps the most surprising comment is that Boullier has seen the need to put in place a fix-it man for Petrov, having identified that he’s not very good at basic self-care, “He needed someone to guide him, to get him about, to tell him how to behave at the track, what time to wake up, have breakfast, how to manage his day, be on time for meetings and so on,” he said.

But the really interesting point Boullier wants to make in the interview is that he seems to be on the verge of making some changes to the way the team operates at a management level. “It’s time to turn a page in our reconstruction of the team.,” he says. “In 2010 we (Genii) didn’t look into the track activities, we didn’t want to destabilise the team. We focussed on getting the factory right and efficient. Now it’s time to attack the next job, I would say that we are lacking an efficient management at the race track.”

This sounds like a signal that there will be some changes to the team, which has been running race operations when the team was Benetton and then Renault, formerly under the management of Pat Symonds.

Following on from last year’s embarrassing story about the team requesting an advance on its 2011 prize money, there were quite a few rumours circulating again about the financial health of the Renault team over the Monaco weekend.

However Boullier denies any problems, “We are calm,” he says. “It’s a period of transition, but we are getting through it remarkably well; we have a sponsor (Group Lotus) and solid partners. And if we ever needed a budget extension during the season, Genii Capital would be in a position to supply it.”

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Dear Eric’s rather weak/ daft remark about the english people is most likely because he the team needs to woo the french (Renault) sponsorship model by regurging the now historic thirty year long anglo french friendship wink wink. I wonder how things would be if this sort of remark would come from Lewis Hamilton? It does seem rather interesting to say something like that whilst operating an english team. I can only guess from that that he desperately needs money from the french.

Victor Winarto

Personally I think the same too for first 2 rounds, but after that, I even didn’t hear any big development for Renault and compared it to Ferrari’s ambitiousness, Renault just doesn’t have it or not yet.

The team really needs good management to control input and output and learn what makes their outcome different with expected result and solution for it rather than blaming driver.

Pit-stop and strategy are also areas which Renault doesn’t excel, during Bob Bell, them team can make it, perhaps sometimes sacrifice one of driver for team goal (but the S’pore case was just too extreme).

Petrov is already improving and only needs time to polish his skill. Heidfeld isn’t fast for qualifying isn’t a secret but he can manage for Sunday race it especially for tracks where he did good in the past.

Also because last year car is good, it doesn’t mean the next year car will be a title challenger if not intensely developed. Eric can ask McLaren in 2004 after good nailing driver world champion for 2003.

When will Flavio or Bob Bell can back to F1?


After a second look at this article, I think more of what Boullier is trying to say is that the team was relying on a strong driver, which is a bad system. If the driver leaves (or gets injured), suddenly the team falls to shambles. The team needs a support structure independent of the driver, or else it is prone to failures like this.

Neither Nick nor Robert should have to shoulder the responsibility of lead driver AND team manager. Renault should have a team manager that lets their lead driver, be it Kubica or Heidfeld, do their job as a driver.

I bet Kubica would also do a better job as a driver if he wasn’t constantly having to slam his fist on a table to get things done.


You may be right. But with a strong structure in team management they still need a driver that gives enough feedback to his mechanics, so that people in factory know where to go with the developmnet of the car. I would add to your point that Boullier wants to say that keeping Petrov wasn’t his decision.


…but Nick does give good feedback, which is why they hired him at the start of the year. After his first session in the car he was able to assist with development. That is the same reason why de la Rosa was dropped in his favour last year.

Heidfeld needs to step up his game in terms of qualifying and race performance, but at the same time, Renault can’t rely on their drivers to lead the team, and they are starting to realize that now.


And you say Heidfeld only needs to improve in qualifying and everything would be fine. Yes, I agree, for his speed on Sunday is very good. But I think that if he could do that (that is: improve in quali) he would have done so already. I wish him well, but I remember all to well his problems in qualifying while he was in BMW, especially throughout in 2008.


If Nick gives enough feedback I cannot say, but from Boullier words I may judge that he isn’t sure enough about what to do with the car, how to balance it and so on, hence his problems in qualifing.

Baron Von Awesome

I feel for Eric, he’s a good guy doing his best but Rob being hurt was a major major blow to the team. That R31 is a very fast car but it needs a A-grade driver to really deliver the results it’s capable of, Vitaly is still learning and Nick has been somewhat underwhelming.

Rob should be back some time during the season, I hazard to guess that Eric can’t wait.


It sounds to me like there is a potential title winning car being wasted this year.


Just seems to me that Boullier has a tendency to bad mouth everyone, He wasnt particularly kind to Alonso and now he is doing the same to Heidfeld.

I also read somewhere else that Renault may be dropping Kubica!


I agree with Boullier (ahem ;-), what did Fernando ever achieve at renault.

Erm 2 WDCs 🙂


What ever you will say the truth of the matter is Nick isn’t and never will be as good as Robert.

Adrian Jordan

The statistics would suggest otherwise but that doesn’t seem to be enough to satisfy some fans who are so certain that Kubica would be scoring podiums with this car…


You mean statistics of 2008 season? Kubica had a real chance than of fighting for championship but his team in the second half of the season “preffered to concentrate on building a car for 2009”? (we all know what was the end of that story). And in spite of that (in spite of all the efforts taken by the team to help Heidfeld match Kubica) he outscored Heidfeld with twice as much points at the end of the season.

But I am not saying that Nick is a bad driver,on the contrary: he is a decent, solid driver, and on certain days, on certain tracks he can be as quick as anybody. But usually he is just not (or I should say: was not) so quick as Kubica. “Heidfeld is einfach nicht so schnell als Kubica” – as Keke Rosberg once said on German TV.


In ’08 Robert had 75 points and Nick had 60. That’s one and a half race wins different at the time. So the equivalent of 37.5 points, which is just more than the gap between Hamilton and Button last year. So hardly double the points. Also he outscored Robert in ’07 and ’09. I think Robert is quicker driver, but Nick has always got results through consistency and he is a great driver for it.


In a week that lewis got absolutely slated for a joke comment about Ali G (which was very badly judged), I would have thought a team principal would have more sense.

I’m sure he is doing team morale the world of good by implying his english team members are arrogant.

I have always liked Renault as a team, based in Enstone. But with people like Boullier (who seems to have a lot of bluster and little delivery – ongoing rumours of lack of finances despite this great business model he believes he has) involved, its no real surprise Bob Bell left.

Monsieur Boullier picked Nick Heidfeld over Bruno Senna and other options, so perhaps he should also be questioning his own leadership style.

They were very lucky to have robert Kubica who is (until his accident) one of the best drivers out there.


About Lewis, I thought it was a bad joke after reading about it; but after hearing him say it, I thought it was funny, and I laughed.

The interviewer asked him what happened, so he told her. Then the interviewer asked why he is a target to the stewards, which is a pretty silly question to ask, so he made a joke. He obviously doesn’t know why he is getting called up there, otherwise he would fix it.

Much ado about nothing.


he is just trying to deflect attention away from himself as criticism starts to mount , and with alterations to the blown diffuser rules , mount they will , their big advantage early season

nick heidfeld was brought in as a safe pair of hands , he isn’t a top 5 driver and never was , and they knew it ; but he knows how to keep a car on the track and help develop the car …given the support technically

maybe management changes need to start with m. bouillier , man management sure isn’t his forte !trying to remember the last good french team principal in F1 !


Jean Todt?


Jean Todt was a moderately successfull French team principal i seem to recall…


Renault’s race management definitely has been very poor. Point is case was the Monaco GP when the safety car came out after Massa’s accident. Heidfeld was just a second behind Sutil at the time. Yet after they did their stops and it all settled down, Sutil was in 4th and Heidfeld was languishing a lap down. If they had managed what FI did, Heidfeld would have had a good change of finishing 4th. His race pace was good and it was unlikely he would have made a mistake. Having said that he does need to sort out qualifying pace. All through the year, Renault have been the worst at managing strategies and have had the slowest pitstops compared to their closest rivals.


Mark Webber to Renault. RB don’t deserve him.


I was very suprised when Renault did badly in Monaco because throughout this year, they were performing better relative to the pace of Kubica in the 2010 Renault, and Petrov was consistantly and more often than not considerably slower than Kubica in the 2010 car. I do not understand why they(Renault) didn’t put enough downforce on the car at Monaco. Monaco is all about putting as much downforce as you can on the car. Monaco is not about having great aerodynamic efficiency. I hope their performance in Monaco was just a blip, rather than a continuing storyline.

In any case, Renault really need Robert Kubica back in a leadership capacity, be it in the car on the track(the preferred option for everyone in the team and anyone who has followed him throughout his career) or off the track.


“How is Heidfeld supposed to put his fist down or demand this and that when he is a sub, and just came to the team few months ago.

It’s senseless.”

Brace, you nailed it.

Given the scrambling needed on the eve of the season after Kubica’s injury, it was surely unrealistic to expect more than they’ve achieved so far. But given that Monaco = the money showcase, it look$ like $omebody i$ up$et at not getting their money’$ worth so far.

Bluntly, which of the players so far known to be involved has gotten value from this team? Renault? Group Lotus/Proton? Genii? Who knows. This team has a doubly borrowed identity. Renault doesn’t own the team, as Sebee points out; really, the Renault and the Lotus branding are only that: branding. Renault (even via Nissan) isn’t going to re-purchase this team. Group Lotus has the John Player color scheme, but little else; they don’t own the team. JPS Livery only goes so far: Without the goodwill that is legally held by Team Lotus; and without exclusive use of the Lotus name, the “Renault” team can’t have enough value to make it worthwhile for Group Lotus/Proton to purchase the team outright.

Genii planned on leveraging their F1 presence as something of a technology marketing exercise, but, so far, they’re the brand behind the brand behind the brand. Genii can’t be getting their money’s worth under these circumstances, and the ongoing Namegate drama may well have caused them to rethink their position, such that these rumblings from Boullier could be the beginning of the end Genii’s involvement on a “better get out now before we waste too much money” theory.

I fear that it’s possible, if not likely, that Genii-Lotus-Renault folds up, along with Virgin and HRT (which currently feels like its about to go the way of Arrows; haven’t been able to qualify the cars for various reasons). The business models (and, in Virgin’s case, having reportedly split with Nick Wirth, the engineering model also) and the marketing rationales of all three have been become questionable, if not untenable. Best case? New buyers come along for all three.

However it plays out, they’ve got a hard row to hoe.


If Eric Boullier has the resources, then he is spoiled for choices when it comes to drivers and management. Hulkenberg, Alguersari, Grosjean could all be potential targets. On the management side, they can tap in on the vast experience of Chris Dyer and Sam Michaels. I dont think they can afford to let go Petrov so easily though. Petrov brings in lots of Russian money and the co-ownership of Marussia Motors.


Marussia Motors????

I thought they were part owners of the Virgin team!

Nothing to do what-so ever with Lotus Renault GP….


I stand corrected. Marussia is indeed part owners of Virgin (where rumors suggest Petrov could join next season) and are not involved in Lotus-Renault GP, but LADA is.


I think Nick needs to work in his qualifying form but as ever he is bringing the car home in the points by stealth. His drive in Spain (18th to 8th) was probarly as good as Webber’s in China considering he has a slower car and China is easier to pass than Spain. The car is clearly designed for Robert and as we saw with Schumacher driving a car last year that was designed for Jenson one cannot jump into these things and be expected to fly. I think Eric Boullier should spend less time moaning about his drivers and dreaming of Robert and wander down to his factory and start asking where the new parts are as Renault have clearly fallen behind in the development race.


How is Heidfeld supposed to put his fist down or demand this and that when he is a sub, and just came to the team few months ago.

It’s senseless.

Adrian Jordan

I know what you’re saying, but at the end of the day Nick is the one driving the car so the team should give him what he wants to make it go faster.


Poor Nick Heidfeld. Bouillier sure knows how to demotivate people.

Anyway, for a Frenchman of all people to call the English arrogant…….

There’s a job going at Aston Villa,interested?

Houillier to Bouillier.


James, you’ve given us a hint that money might be tight again at Enstone, so allowing that Group Lotus are trying to shed staff, have had to borrow hugely to even contemplate their new car plans – which are already being revised – would you suppose that the whole team is in peril?

What has the – now JYS supported – business platform delivered?


“Nick Heidfeld isn’t mentioned at all” – are you referring to Boullier’s interview there, or Nick’s entire career? 😉

When you look at Heidfeld’s results, he’s been a very effective driver – matching Kubica over their time together at BMW for example – but he seems to have the super-power of invisibility.

Victor Winarto

I would say the same

All media go for his team-mate, no matter what he did to get similiar attraction. Yeah the Sunday news always got him down and guest what, that’s the news most people can read without worrying time, while the Monday newspaper won’t disclose enough information. So basically it’s clear, a driver has to demonstrate a good qualifying result to get popularity.

But I think several people really got to love Heidfeld, I mean fans who support him during a decade, not season by season. So if one team manager knows how to use it, Nick’s profile should be enough to generate money too.

Still after Monaco, I don’t what wrong with his car, look not very fast in overall, but pretty quick in several areas.

Also, it seems Heidfeld has not enough confidence with his car.


So Nick is supposed to dominate in a car that wasn’t designed for him?

In a team that he doesn’t know?

The same team who have failed in strategy in three rounds so far and have some of the slowest pitstops?



He seemed to do well in the BMW-Saubers that weren’t designed for him… that in fact, were also designed for Kubica. A good car is a good car.


The Petrov’s problem is that his manager is a certain good looking Mrs Oksana Kosachenko. She probably also coaches him on daily issues after the race-weekend. In the F1 world filled predominatly with Alpha men and pack leaders this does not go particularly well. Robert as a character is a total opposite of Petrov. He became a quasi grown-up already at school age when his father left Italy due to lack of resources. He is very independent and a very sharp guy with enormous leadership qualities. No wonder that Boulier misses him so much. After G.Lopez recent faux pas regarding Robert’s immediate future at Renault ( limited to Friday sessions only) Mr. Boulier must be a really worried man.


Is this the start of a ‘Plan B’ now Team Lotus can continue to be ‘Team Lotus’ It wouldn’t surprise me if GENII was hoping for more from Group Lotus, which maybe now can’t happen as previously envisaged.


Does this team even have an identity leadership anymore? Is it Renault? Is it Lada? Is it Lotus? Team Lotus or Group Lotus? Is it Blue, Green, Yellow, Gold or Black?

This F1 team is Renault in partial name alone, probably for sake of championship money and Concorde Agreement. The French Car maker has been out of this team since the scandal, and it shows. Pat and Flavio made that team, just like Adrian Newey makes Red Bull.

I’m not sure why Genii got into F1. Loving a good theory as much as the next guy, could it be that they have substantial dealings with Renault and Nissan? They agreed to take it over and run this PR hot potato at time of scandal in anticipation of selling it soon to a US F1 effort perhaps?


Boullier appears to be a “The beatings will continue until morale improves” kind of leader. Moral cannot be good inside Renault, and it does not look to be improving.

Can you imagine how Petrov feels with Boullier making public comments like that? Unbelievable.


weird… why to bring your dirty laundry out in such a manner?

i dont get it…

nice comments about Kubica though.. these comments could deliver him a precontract with another team that is willing to take risk with a “2nd driver” spot (having already a hell of a strong 1st man)

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