New Renault F1 chief promises humility, rigour – and openness
5 January 2010
If he acknowledges that he has a challenge on his hands to re-motivate and re-instil confidence in a team down on its luck and that narrowly avoided permanent expulsion from the F1 World Championship in 2009, new Renault team principal Eric Boullier is convinced that he is the right man for the job.
Whilst Nelsinho Piquet left with his tail between his legs and both Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds were both barred from the grand prix paddock for the roles they played in the well-publicised 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal, Renault itself was spared by the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC), as it deliberated the team's punishment for one of the worst instances of cheating in sporting memory.
Instead, a suspended ban was imposed upon the Oxfordshire-based outfit, and Boullier admits that the workforce at the end of 2009 were in a very different frame of mind to that which they had been eight months earlier. He is the man who has been tasked with getting the team back on-track again, and he vows to do so via a mix of humility, rigour and – in stark contrast to the previous management, as it ultimately transpired – openness.
“When I started in the job it quickly became clear that the staff's morale had been affected by the end of the 2009 season and that the last few weeks had been quite challenging,” the Frenchman revealed. “However, the team is now very motivated thanks to the new philosophy of humility, rigour and openness that Renault wants to implement and, when it was presented at the factory shortly before Christmas, it was welcomed with applause. Everyone is now refreshed and ready for action.
“I have been appointed by the Renault F1 Team, which stays in charge of all operational aspects of its F1 activity. Of course, representatives of (new team owners) Genii Capital were consulted, but it would be wrong to think of Renault as a two-headed structure that will have two decision-making hubs – this is one team with one structure.
“I will concentrate solely on the sporting and performance aspects; Bob Bell will oversee the design office, production and the technical development of the car. We have already had a lot of discussions and we think in the same way. For me, the racing is the most important thing above all. I think we will work well together.”
At just 36, Boullier will join Red Bull Racing counterpart Christian Horner as the equal-youngest team principal in the paddock, and he suggests that his 'fresh blood' will inject a welcome breath of air and a new approach into the corridors at Enstone. Horner took just a handful of years to truly establish himself as a leading player in the sport, and whilst insisting that he is under no immediate pressure and has been set no stringent timeframe for results to be achieved, the ex-DAMS team manager is evidently setting the bar high.
“The team wanted some fresh blood and to open a new chapter,” he explained. “F1 is made of cycles, and the shape of tomorrow's sport is being defined now with a new generation beginning to fill the paddock little-by-little. Ferrari and McLaren have, among others, followed this evolution.
“My employers never mentioned [a timeframe]; however, I have set myself relatively high objectives. F1 is a dream for an engineer, and I wouldn't want to let this opportunity pass me by. There is no pressure, only the motivation to do the job for which I have been appointed well. It is still a little early to describe [the 2010 objectives] precisely, but my mission is foremost to put the team back on-track by concentrating on two main themes.
“One of my priorities will be to put in-place an organisation that flows and is efficient in order for Enstone to work in harmony. Then, for the performance, we must put in-place an improved feedback process. It won't happen in two months, we know that, but it will need to be progressive and solid. Today, we have all the means to reach this objective. The budget is fixed, 60 per cent of the wind tunnel has been upgraded and our high-tech CFD centre is now in full swing – so there's everything to play for.”
As to the identity of Robert Kubica's team-mate in 2010, finally, Boullier is giving little away, denying that members of Gravity Sport Management – of which he is the CEO – such as 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve and young Chinese hope Ho-Pin Tung will have an advantage when it comes to the selection process.
“The second driver will have to be able to score points and challenge Robert Kubica,” he stressed. “It might be a Gravity driver or it might not, but I can guarantee that it will be even more difficult for a Gravity driver to be selected as they really will have to prove their worth to be chosen as Renault's second driver.”