Changes at Renault
Pat Symonds, Renault’s Director of Engineering, will be less involved in the race team in future, reports Autosport magazine. This has meant that there will a personnel reshuffle within the team, with Fisichella’s race engineer, Alan Permane, taking control of the teams overall engineering oversight and other engineers moving around to fill the gaps.
These are changes with the future in mind but they may have an immediate impact upon Renault’s competitiveness for 2007. It takes time to adjust to re-arrangements and, taken with the driver changes, especially the loss of Alonso, the team might not be as strong as we have come to expect, at least for the early part of the season.
The drivers are the biggest question mark, of course. I have been a fan of Fisichella’s over the years but, to be brutally honest, he has disappointed a little. There have been half chances for the taking but, generally, he has missed out on them. And this coming season with Renault has to be the make or break year. As the driver with experience, he should take the team forward and start to win consistently; others have risen to the occasion in the past and surprised us with suddenly-masterful performances (remember Patrick Tambay in Gilles’ shoes?). But can Giancarlo do it? I am not sure.
Then there’s young Heikki Kovalainen. Briatore thinks he has the makings of a star but only time will tell. His results in lower formulae are good but not record-breaking, and his year as a test driver with Renault tells us little. It seems he is pretty quick and he is Finnish, after all (and you know that counts!). But he would have to be something really special to challenge for the championship in his first F1 racing year. Again, I’m not sure.
With all these changes, the 2006 champions have to be a dubious bet for next year. And Ferrari are in the same boat, as strong as their line-up looks on paper. At McLaren, everything hinges on how good their car is – if it’s good, Alonso will be champion, if not, he’s in for a very frustrating year. And some are getting tired of waiting for McLaren to come good again…
It’s a perfect recipe for a fiercely competitive season. The big guys are busy rebuilding and the midfield runners have their acts together and are ready to take up the challenge. Ever the optimist, I hope we see a real dogfight between five or six teams with the championships not decided until the very last lap of the last race.
And I say that knowing full well that years of that sort are as rare as hen’s teeth in F1…