New Renault F1 owner Gérard Lopez believes that such has been the re-injection of verve and vitality into a team that at the end of last season had looked to be down on its knees, that the former double F1 World Champions can again start dreaming of aiming for the very highest prize in 2011.
Rocked by the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal and resultant resignation of both disgraced managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, the departure of number one driver Fernando Alonso, the loss of key sponsors ING and Mutua Madrileña and falling car sales due to the global credit crunch, Renault F1 appeared to be down-and-out come the end of 2009, with many predicting that the team was set for dissolution.
However, with Lopez's Genii Capital investment company stepping in to purchase a majority 75 per cent stake in the Enstone-based outfit, it lived to fight another day – and a combination of the Luxembourg-based businessman's vision and drive to succeed allied to the brilliance of Robert Kubica behind the wheel has enabled the squad to bounce back in style, defying its detractors to challenge Mercedes Grand Prix for fourth spot in the constructors' rankings, when last year it had wound up a lowly eighth, a far cry from its dominance of 2005 and 2006.
So great has been progress, Lopez affirms, that the team can now banish 2008 and 2009 firmly to the history books and potentially even look forward to a return to former glories next year – possibly with 2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen partnering fellow grand prix-winner Kubica on the driving strength [see separate story – click here
“There is a winning mentality back in the team,” he told Reuters
. “For sure we would like to fight for the championship next year, and it takes more than just words to do that. It takes a culture and so on, and I think we are back into that culture where a weekend like [the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, where Kubica finished only seventh] is really disappointing, not just for me but disappointing for the whole team.
“Just by changing some key management positions, I think we've kind of reignited the will to win and essentially showed the team and the people that were there that they can do it, just like they did it a couple of years ago. I think the foundations are rock solid.
“We are pretty much done with our programme in terms of putting in some key management people, here and at the factory. As far as we are concerned, for the first time now we can actually focus on delivering results rather than just rebuilding stuff – so I think it's as solid as it has probably ever been.”