Defeated FIA Presidential candidate Ari Vatanen has renewed his attack on the governance of F1, in asserting that a 'disillusioned' Renault is 'right' to be re-examining its commitment to the sport, one that he contends is 'only known for conflict, crises and court cases' of late – and that if the manufacturer was indeed to do walk away, it would represent 'the final alarm call that we cannot continue with business as usual'.
Renault yesterday (Wednesday) convened an emergency board meeting in Paris to discuss the future of its Enstone-based F1 operation, in response, it would appear, to the announcement by rival car maker Toyota – the largest automotive organisation in the world – that it is pulling the plug on its own involvement in the top flight with immediate effect.
Having of course been no stranger to controversy itself this year due to the explosion of the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal – one that resulted in the near-instant loss of chief sponsor ING and the departure in disgrace of team figureheads Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds – and having endured its least competitive season in seven years, with lead driver Fernando Alonso now jumping ship to Ferrari for 2010, some have surmised that Renault has little to gain by staying and equally little to lose by leaving.
Vatanen – who lost out to divisive former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt in the election to replace Max Mosley in the most powerful and influential post in international motorsport last month – argues that Renault would be right to follow in the wheel tracks of Honda, BMW and Toyota in walking away, but dismissed notions that it is the debilitating global credit crunch at the heart of the current malaise.
“If you analyse it, Renault is right,” the 57-year-old Finn – World Rally Champion in 1981 – told CNN
. “They are a serious international corporation, not loonies like Max Mosley has called them; they are just very disillusioned with the governance of Formula 1.
“[Renault] would stay in the FIA championship if the sport was known for positive news and if it was a good avenue for marketing and promotion – but Formula 1 is only known for conflict, crises and court cases recently, and big companies cannot afford that.
“We must realise the economic reality is nothing to do with the crisis. Big companies always look to market and promote, even when times are tough, but only if it is in a sensible way. I do hope [Renault do not leave], but if they do it is the final alarm call that we cannot continue with business as usual. I'm sad to say the old guard are still in power in the FIA, but teams are starting to vote with their feet.”
Indeed, in direct evidence of that, Ferrari has issued a scathing statement on its website in which it all-but points the finger at Mosley and the damaging FIA/FOTA dispute that raged over the summer as having been the catalyst behind Toyota's pull-out, painting the Englishman as 'the guilty person' and stressing that 'the steady trickle of desertion is more the result of a war against the big car manufacturers by those who managed the sport, than the effect of the economics that affected Formula 1 over the last years' [see separate story – click here