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Analysis: Blow for Renault as Vasseur leaves “by mutual consent” ahead of 2017 F1 season
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Frederic Vasseur
Posted By: Editor   |  11 Jan 2017   |  10:09 am GMT  |  53 comments

Frédéric Vasseur has left his role as team principal of the Renault Formula 1 team, it was announced today.

The Frenchman, who co-founded the ART Grand Prix junior single seater squad, only joined the Enstone-based team at the start of the 2016 season but he will leave the team immediately “by mutual consent” according to a Renault statement.

As the 2016 season was a transitional year for Renault following its return to F1, Vasseur helped to restructure and reorganise the team during its first year back in the championship as a full works outfit.

Frederic Vasseur

But reports of a disagreement among the team’s senior management emerged towards the end of the season, as the French manufacturer struggled and eventually finished ninth in the constructors’ championship.

The full Renault statement read: “Renault Sport Racing announces that Frédéric Vasseur is leaving his role as Team Principal of the Renault Sport Formula One Team.

“After a first season spent relaunching and rebuilding its Formula 1 team, Renault Sport Racing and Frédéric Vasseur have agreed by mutual consent to part company, effective as of today.

Kevin Magnussen Jolyon Palmer

“Both parties remain committed to maintaining the good working relationship they have enjoyed and expect this to take a new form sometime in the future.

“The outlook of Renault’s second season back in Formula 1, as well as the resources implemented to meet them, will be set out in detail at the presentation of the team’s new race car.

“The Renault Sport Racing and the Formula 1 team continue to be managed by Jérôme Stoll, its President, and Cyril Abiteboul, its Managing Director.”

Kevin Magnussen

Renault returned to F1 after a five-year absence in 2016 after buying back the cash-strapped Lotus squad at the very end of the previous season. The manufacturer revealed its aim to return to the podium within three years when it launched its RS16 challenger.

But the 2016 season proved to be tough for Renault as its drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, faced a regular battle to escape Q1 with an uncompetitive car.

Magnussen’s seventh place at the Russian Grand Prix proved to be Renault’s best result of the year and the team scored just eight points across the whole campaign.

Renault is set to launch its 2017 F1 car on February 21.

James Allen’s View: This is a blow to Renault as Vasseur is a very capable manager. And it would appear to suggest that politics have got in the way with this team. It was always an uncomfortable arrangement for Cyril Abiteboul to be in charge, based in Viry and Vasseur to be in charge based at Enstone, but then they swapped over. And when a team principal isn’t based where his team is based you begin to wonder.

Vasseur is an expert at running racing teams. Abiteboul is a Renault executive, very bright and an excellent communicator, but also quite political. His experience of running F1 teams is limited to a spell in charge of Caterham, which ended badly. Whoever comes in to run the team will have to fit with Abiteboul and also Stoll, who heads the division.

Renault has to step up on every level over the next few years. The noises around the engine are that it has taken a good step and Red Bull hopes that will be enough to let them take on Mercedes. For the works team there is the added pressure of being up against one of the very best teams aerodynamically with the same engine. They will have their work cut out to beat Red Bull under those circumstances at any time in the coming years, especially if you add in the fact that Red Bull have two of the best drivers in the field.

And if you consider that Toro Rosso will also be powered by Renault this season, then they are the team Renault must beat in 2017, otherwise it starts to look a bit embarrassing. Hulkenberg and Palmer is an adequate driver line up, but this year will be all about development and then finding real ambition in 2018 to go after a champion driver or an aspirant champion and to push to join the competition at the front.

They are capable of that, but a strong leader like Vasseur will be critical to that and he’s now gone.

What do you make of the news that Vasseur will leave Renault? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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53 comments

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1

So who will they replace him with?
You don't really want anyone who was in charge of Caterham to be in charge of Renault F1 the man has only known failure.
They need a stalwart big boss [Mod]
Renault need to be beating Red Bull and any other team that run their engines. Plain and simple.

2

So many companies are ruined by politics and ego-massaging of some high profile managers

3

Not a good sign at all to Renault fans.

4

Is Allison definitely going to Mercedes? Could he be 'going home'? If they don't have anyone lined up to replace him, then it would appear that the manufacturers achilles heel has shown up again, senior road car executives do not understand how to run racing teams, it is a totally different discipline, this meddling from on high did for Toyota, Jaguar and Honda's previous effort. Fail to learn from history, be doomed to repeat it.

5

I am pretty sure the execs at Renault can't stop themselves from meddling in the running of their racing team. Even during the first turbo era, when the Renault engine was the one to have, the works Renault team were not winning races with it. Perhaps it would be best if they just cut a cheque for 200 million and hired professionals to get on with running a racing team, and then played racing clips during their adverts to justify the budget as 'marketing'.

6

PatM, they could have just been the title sponsor of Lotus and left them to it. I don't know why more manufacturers don't do this.

7

Yes they could have, and probably should have. I think it's a case of "We are car company experts, and F1 is just cars, so we can run this team better than those racing guys". I have a bit of a soft spot for the on again off again Renault team, but even I have to admit they don't really seem to be all that good at running an F1 team.

8

PatM, I don't know if you have read Jackie Stewart's autobiography? Inbetween all the self promotion and name dropping, there is a great story about Ford execs turning up to the Canadian GP the day after he had sold his team to them. Apparently they all thought they were going to stroll into the garage and take over immediately, lots of boardroom types wandering around the pits saying that the way the team was run was "unbelievable" and they were going to do a much better job. Jackie managed to convince them that it would be better to wait until the end of the season before taking over, at which point the budget quadrupled and the cars got slower!
My favourite stat from that manufacturer era is this.
Manufacturer teams in order of annual spending;
1, Toyota
2, Jaguar
3, Honda
4, BMW
5, Renault
Manufacturer teams in order of success;
1, Renault
2, BMW
3, Honda
4, Jaguar
5, Toyota

9

Love it. I suspect of all industries, in F1 the Stats rarely lie...

10

I haven't read it, but based on "self promotion and name dropping" maybe it will go a little lower on my reading list, which seems to be growing faster than I can read anyway 🙂 That and while I think Jackie was a brilliant driver, sometimes he just rubs me the wrong way. Depending on the time of day this happened, I may have been sitting in the stands across from the pits when the execs showed up.
I have to confess I did take a kind of perverse joy in watching the Toyota disaster, it seemed almost like they had the idea that once the right corporate team structure was in place the car would just sort itself out. It must have been frustrating as hell (can I say hell?) for the drivers though.

11

Pat, it is a good read, but his racing driver's ego does shine through!

12

Sorry for Vasseur to lose his job but perhaps this is the best decision for the team moving forward.

With the exception of the British team principals, we tend to find that team principals running teams similar to their country tend not to work out such as the Prost team.

Also if we're to go down the historical route, I would suggest the team would fair better with an Italian boss whilst Vasseur would fair better at Ferrari

13

Yeah Vasseur did a very bad job before he joined Renault.
Leading ART, a French team, he did a bad job winning multiple championships.
His really worst perfomance was leading the championships of the series he participated so his drivers progressed to F1. He lost his drivers all the time.

Some of the bad drivers he produced are Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Soffel Vandoorne, Valtteri Bottas.....

14

So, is this on the basis that Mercedes is a British team because they're based out of Brackley, and that Wolff isn't really Germanic because he's technically from Austria?

15

@ Pooty

Oh no, Mercedes is a German team as it's owned by a German company.

But correct, Wolff is Austrian

16

There was a case of too many cooks last year ? Maybe JA to Enstone not Brackley after all.

....

17

Paddy Lowe, Vasssuer, James Allison at Ferrari, Ron Dennis at McLaren....lot of upheaval....what happened to the phrase Stability is the key.....Force India, Red Bull and Toro Rosso has stable staff and guess what they are doing fine.

18

Is Palmer not a potential world champion then?

19

Given a half-decent car he's probably a solid points scorer, the problem is he hasn't had the hardware so far.

20

How can anyone say at this point? A short stint in an non competitive car. Hopefully Renault improves in time for him to show what his potential truly is.

21

Based on what we've seen, not a chance.

22

Given it took him four years to win the GP2 title (and only once he got into the best team), no he is not.

23

Took Nasr three years to finish second and he is/was supposed to be one of the next big things!

24

Sad. I want the Renault Team to do well and they could really do without some in fighting crap getting in the way.

25

Wrong guy gone in my opinion. I have very little regard for Abiteboul - he's been very good at being offended at being called out for the poor performance of Renault since the introduction of the hybrid era - and has the gall to suggest that it will be another year before their PU is on par with Mercedes even now. He should have been given the pink slip last year.

26

Totally agree Ben. All roads lead to Abiteboul in my opinion. He's got flies on him.

27

@LKFE...too true. Abiteboul spent most of '15 trying to defend the indefensible re the dud renault engine. Even when their development claims were proven to be rubbish he was in total denial and tried to use RB as a scapegoat. IMO he should've been the one to go, but then again, what would i know apart from reading the net posts!

28

My gut feeling says "poor Hulk", the move from force india may not be a good one. I don't really know Abiteboul but outing Vasseur at this time considering his pedigree sounds like , as James said, a blow...and if toro rosso beats them while Red bull is fighting for the championship...bad times ahead for Renault...(does that mean Nando is coming back and sending ahead his curse ?????)

29

I just can't see Renault breaking past the mid field to be honest...their one redeeming feature has to be the stalwarts at Enstone...them with some budget should produce and race a competitive car...but take on Merc, RB and Ferrari in the current state? Come on...

30

I was pretty surprised by this. It's an old cliché but not many people know how to win championships in motorsport and Fred Vasseur is one who does (multiple titles with ASM/ART, even though that is in the junior formulae). Interesting analysis, in particular on the strengths and weaknesses of Vasseur and Cyril Abiteboul.

One question: what does “Both parties remain committed to maintaining the good working relationship they have enjoyed and expect this to take a new form sometime in the future." mean? Is this something vague (we may work with him in 5/10 years) or is there genuinely something in the pipeline? I can hardly imagine Vasseur carrying the drinks, but maybe an ART GP2-Renault F1 driver tie-up (if Vasseur still has a role at ART)?

31

If I were in Marchionne's shoe's I'd happily trade Arrivabene for Vasseur...

32

I bet he'd rather trade his Ferrari for a Mercedes 😉

33

This does not augures well for Renault. I read somewhere that he might be joinning Mercedes. Any truth to that? Being a Frenchie l hope Renault will succeed eventually, but it seems that if this early on "politics" are playing up, their ascension to the top might be troublesome. Marc

34

Wonder what's so special about mr.Cyril. Losing Fred. Is a real loss for Nico. If he doesn't get a podium in 2017, at least a win in 2018, may be end of line.

35

cyril ? - family connections inside renault. so much for f1 being a meritocracy.

36
søren christensen

Well, I can only say, the young Kmag made the right decision, when he left the Renault chaos.
Too many smug Directors from Renault France with very limited knowledge about F1 made life for the drivers, and the rest of the professional people at Renault F1 challenging, to say the least. Now the only really competent of the Directors has had enough too. Very understandable.
Challenging season ahead for Hulk and Palmer

37

Ok i can stop dreaming now. My dream was to see both Renault and McLaren in top4 in couple of years. Imagine 4 different motor manufacters fighting for championship! If Renault starts to suck even more, it is going to be mainly merc and ferrari powered cars in the future.. Boring.

38

Err redbull

39

yes yes yes it wont last forever 😉

40

How about getting James Allison back? It would be a shame if he ended up at the all conquering Mercedes

41

Vasseur and Allison had completely different roles. Vasseur was team principal, Allison was Technical Director.

42

But both left Renault behind for the same reason. Namely lack of proper leadership organization with clear roles and responsibilities! As @søren Christensen said above, also contributing factor why Magnussen decided to go to Haas despite the 1-year contract offer from Renault. And after the fact, its clear that Magnussen's internal leadership support Vasseur was potentially already back then getting squeezed out and had limited say in driver offer/lineup. For sure Hulkenberg will be deeply disappointed that Vasseur is no longer at Renault as expected. They know each other very well, Vasseur lead the ART team where Hulkenberg won his Formula 3 and GP2 titles and both looked forward to repeat that feat together in F1. It was essentially Vasseur who convinced Hulkenberg to leave the better performing FI-car and join Renault with him. That their leadership is in the hands of a politician whos major F1 feat was Caterham doesn't bode well for Renault and the Hulk in 2017...

43

"Red Bull have two of the best drivers in the field."

Fanboys will use this and claim JA is biased towards Redbull drivers in 3, 2, 1...

44

"two of the best", not "*the* two best", so the fanboys will have to get over it.

Mind you, in a recent article James did say that one of them *is* the best, so... 😉

45

Wrong website my friend.

46

No, he's in the right place!

47

@ LKFE...yes, he's in the right place and as such i just hope that the car lives up to expectations! That and hoping that RB play a straight bat, of which i'm not too sure.....

48

"Hulkenberg and Palmer is an adequate driver line up, but this year will be all about development ..."
My understanding is that Hulkenberg is pretty good in set-up, isn't he?

49

We we think about when or if Renault will ever reemerge just consider Carlo Ghsone and his years running the company. Politics over progress. Back of the grid for them.

50
Tornillo Amarillo

James, Merc took 5 years to be WCC, so maybe we should not have any rush with Renault.

I couldn't believe Renault is not capable of putting all pieces together in the next 2 years, I think they can. Of course there are always ups and downs, but maybe they could fight the WCC in 2020 onward.

If Force India is a good model to follow as an organized team , maybe that's why they already got the Hulk 🙂 Renault should be better than Force India in 1 or 2 years, don't you think?

This 2017 Renault should fight for the lower points with Hulk in every race, he is a good qualifier, but that will be tough, with PEREZ, OCON, ALONSO, VANDOORNE, SAINZ, KVYAT, MAGNUSSEN, GROSJEAN, MASSA...all there too for the same lower points.

Unfortunately I can't hope the same with Palmer, but at least he could fight some times for Q2, gain more experience and fight Saubers, Haases, and rookie Stroll at the back... if those are in the back of the grid, early times now.

51

Both Mercedes and Force India showed continuous progress year over year.
Now Renault has only been back for 1 year, so they might still surprise us.
But the signals getting out do not look promising for fundamental improvements.

52

As my good friend and close colleague RV pointed out; 'Abiteboul is totally useless, agreed. He seriously ballsed up Caterham both politically and practically. The French corporate hierarchy is full of bull and endless reports. The more you strut about the stage posturing and blaming everyone else the higher you go. This is not typical bias., I have worked for a major French group and soon learnt the dark arts of politics and the despatching of empty registered envelopes. You will note the dramatic step up made by Citroen recently; they have a British female CEO, Linda Jackson, who has cut the meetings and the bull. No meeting ends without a decision - total anathema to the French cadre.'

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