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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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