Lotus Renault GP managing director Eric Boullier has asserted that the team 'must make some positive steps in the next two races' following a distinctly lacklustre run of late in F1 2011 – and he is hopeful that at the Nürburgring this weekend, 'some good developments' will enable the Enstone-based outfit to reclaim the fourth spot it lost to closest rival Mercedes GP last time out at Silverstone.
Having at one stage sat ahead of Ferrari in third place in the constructors' standings early on in the campaign and having since invariably occupied fourth, Renault surrendered that position to Mercedes following a British Grand Prix that yielded just four points for Nick Heidfeld courtesy of a gritty charge through the field to eighth from 16th on the grid – what Boullier acknowledges was a trademark effort from the experienced German. Despite qualifying higher up the order, team-mate Vitaly Petrov could manage only twelfth.
“Nick's good at those kinds of performances,” the Frenchman reflects. “He did well to work his way up from 16th to eighth when he crossed the line – it was a positive and determined drive from him. There was a general feeling of disappointment within the team, though; we were unable to recover from the tricky period we have been going through. However, we were relieved to score some points, even if we did lose our fourth position in the constructors' championship to Mercedes GP.
“Since then, we have continued to work really hard in the factory to improve the situation. We have some good developments coming, which unfortunately were not available for Silverstone but will be ready at the Nürburgring. I am very confident these will take our performance forwards, closer to where it needs to be.”
Indeed, having failed to perform anywhere near expectations on 'home' turf, Boullier vows that Renault 'will be looking to claim back' P4 in the constructors' table as soon as this weekend's German Grand Prix – and he concedes that a strong result both there and also in Hungary a week later would be just the tonic required to lift flagging spirits before F1 heads into its annual summer hiatus.
“It's always a challenge [to maintain morale], especially if the results are not forthcoming,” he muses, “but I enjoy this side of things. My job is to reassure people, keep spirits high and give people targets that we can reach. It is one of the most challenging aspects of the job because you are dealing with human relationships, sporting and political issues, and there will always be good and bad times. However, the main thing is to stick together and make sure we reach the heights that we know we can.
“There will be some upgrades on the car [in Germany], which will help considerably. Also, on the race team side, we must not miss any opportunity that we are provided with. We know we haven't been fast enough recently, but with the hard work we are all putting in, it will get better – it has to get better.
“We definitely need to catch up with Mercedes GP, who have overtaken us into fourth spot in the constructors' championship which, with our pace, is the target this year. We can make some considerable technical changes, and we may also use a reverse exhaust system – this is something we still have to evaluate. There is a lot to look at, but we must make some positive steps in the next two races.”
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the team then still known as Renault F1 incurred a financial loss of some £40 million last year, its first under the ownership and control of Genii Capital. The lack of a title sponsor and the absence of its erstwhile parent manufacturer's backing cost the Oxfordshire operation almost 50 per cent of its income – down from £162 million in 2009 to just £82.1 million in 2010, according to company accounts released this week and reported by SPEED.com
Whilst costs were significantly reduced by the £25.6 million difference between the salary of Fernando Alonso and the rather more modest retainer of his successor Robert Kubica, staff numbers increased – predominantly on the administration side.
Net losses worked out at £40 million for the year – £34.2 million after tax – with money owed via large loans to both Renault and Lithuanian bank AB Snoras, whose logos have appeared on the car. To put all of that into perspective, 2009 had ended with a net profit
of £4.8 million.