Former Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis has backed ART Grand Prix team chief Frederic Vasseur as the right man to mastermind Renault’s planned return as a works team to Formula 1.
Vasseur – who not only runs the multiple GP2, GP3 and Formula 3-winning giant ART Grand Prix, but also the Spark Racing Technology company that supplies all Formula E cars – has been tipped for a team manager role with Renault F1.
He could work in tandem with marque figurehead Alain Prost, who has also been strongly linked to its return to F1 as a manufacturer.
Panis claims Vasseur would be the perfect candidate to steer Renault on the right path, having guided the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg and Jules Bianchi to junior single-seater titles.
"Frederic Vasseur would be a good manager,” Panis told Motorsport.com. “In French motorsport, most people talk about the super drivers and the super teams, but there are also super team managers such as him, Jean-Paul Driot, Simon Abadie, Hugues de Chaunac…
“These people have managed racing teams for a long time and have won several titles. I don’t know what would be Vasseur’s position in the team, but it would be extraordinary for French motorsport. He can do the job."
Renault return “would be fantastic”
Panis – who started 157 Grand Prix for Ligier, Prost, BAR and Toyota – is hopeful that the takeover of the Lotus team goes ahead as planned.
He believes that short-term success must be an attainable target for that to happen, however.
"Renault’s return in Formula 1 would be fantastic for motor racing in France,” he said. “But they have to come back in F1 as front-runners.
“I think this is their job today, to be in a position to fight for the world title in the next two or three years.”
Interview by Basile Devoine