Renault not taking 2017 F1 driver line up decision lightly as it looks to the future
The Renault Formula 1 team remains the only works squad yet to reveal its driver line up for the 2017 season and the high profile nature of its sea...
The Renault Formula 1 team remains the only works squad yet to reveal its driver line up for the 2017 season and the high profile nature of its seats is the key to the driver market for next year.
Both of its current drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, are under pressure to keep their seats with the former recently stating that there had been a delay in the team’s decision on its future driver pairing.
Magnussen added to his cause to remain at the team with 10th place at the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend, which was Renault’s first point since the Danish driver finished seventh at the Russian Grand Prix back in April.
Renault is thought to be keen to sign its former reserve driver Esteban Ocon for 2017 and is currently evaluating his progress at the Manor team, which he joined in place of Rio Haryanto after the summer break.
If such a scenario, which is made more complicated because Ocon is a Mercedes-backed junior driver, comes to pass, that leaves just one seat left at Renault.
Magnussen’s point in Singapore came at a crucial point for his F1 future as it followed his enormous accident in the Belgian Grand Prix and a poor team showing at Monza, where the long straights exposed the RS16’s deficits to Renault’s midfield rivals.
Palmer is still yet to score a point in F1 and spun out of tenth place at the Hungarian Grand Prix shortly before the summer break. In Singapore, he finished 15th after a slow puncture cost him time, while before that clashes with Felipe Massa in Germany and Felipe Nasr in Italy also stopped him producing better results.
But there are other drivers that could yet make the switch to Renault. Valtteri Bottas has also been linked with the Enstone-based squad and despite several comments from both himself and the team that he will stay for 2017; Sergio Perez is still yet to formally commit to Force India.
At the weekend he said: “It’s nice to have the situation I have with options on the table, but as a driver you would like to clear your mind of that. It looks as if I’m going to stay.
“But because of my past experience with McLaren; everything was pretty much sorted then last minute there was a change. In F1 everything can change, but everything seems to be that I am going to stay for another year.”
Another possible candidate is Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. The Russian has struggled since his demotion from Red Bull in place of Max Verstappen earlier this year, but he put in an aggressive performance in Singapore to come home ninth – his first points finish since the British Grand Prix – and said afterwards that he was “loving” F1 once again.
Like Perez and Magnussen, Kvyat does bring money. The Russian exchange broker company Exness joined Red Bull as a sponsor after Kvyat was announced as one of its drivers for 2015 and the Acronis data protection company co-founded by Serguei Beloussov, joined Toro Rosso in a one-off deal for this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
As we outlined yesterday, Kvyat’s chances of staying at Toro Rosso are hampered by Pierre Gasly’s recent form in GP2 and if the Frenchman wins the title – he currently leads the points standings – he has a strong case for promotion to the seat alongside Carlos Sainz at the Italian team next year.
Renault also has a large stake in the AvtoVAZ company that owns the Lada automotive brand, which reportedly has a market share of around 20 per cent in the Russian market. This makes the idea of running a Russian driver in its F1, which Renault has done in the past with Vitaly Petrov, an appealing prospect to the French manufacturer.
In the team principals’ press conference for last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, Renault’s managing director Cyril Abiteboul explained that the team was keen to put the 2016 season behind it and focus on what it has achieved in regards to rebuilding the former Lotus squad over the past ten months.
“We are not just here to make up the figures,” he added. “We are here for the long term and to be a very competitive outfit.”
Abiteboul also suggested that Renault signing a big name driver does not appear to be on the team’s agenda for at least two years and that the line-up it chooses for 2017, which he highlighted would be the “first drivers that we chose as Renault”, could be in place for a few years. It is therefore not a choice it will be rushed into.
“I think that a big name will at some point in time will be important,” he said. “I think it is a bit too early. But clearly if you look at all the key success factors for all successful teams, there was always a symbolic ambassador who was a driver.
“It’s likely that the drivers we will be choosing for next year will be really the first drivers that we chose as Renault, [and] will be here for a couple of seasons so I think we are not taking that decision lightly.
“It’s good that we have options and we are trying to make the decision that is as much informed as possible and we are in a position to sort of take our time and look at what’s going on around us. So it’s an important decision but we are not rushing into anything.”
With Renault keen on a driver line up that would be in place for at least two seasons, it faces a big decision in the coming weeks. Those drivers performing at their best right now will give themselves the best shot a securing a relative-scarce works F1 seat.Who do you think Renault should choose for 2017? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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