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"We're walking through fire"; Renault reaction to latest setback

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"We're walking through fire"; Renault reaction to latest setback
Sep 25, 2009, 12:41 PM

New Renault managing director Jean-Francois Caubet has said that Renault has suffered immense damage to its brand and considered an F1 pullout.

New Renault managing director Jean-Francois Caubet has said that Renault has suffered immense damage to its brand and considered an F1 pullout. It has decided to commit itself to the sport, but must put in place a management structure that will keep the team true to Renault's values.

Caubet: It's been humiliating

This weekend has been utterly humiliating for the team so far, with the high profile rejection by two sponsors, ING and Mutua Madrilena. To be cast off like that by two blue chip international companies gives Renault a pariah status that is hard to comprehend for one of the world's leading car companies. It shows how the colossal media power of F1, when used as a force for bad, can cause unimaginable damage even to a great institution like Renault.

There are the inevitable rumours this weekend that the team might be sold with the usual suspects like David Richards linked with the team, but Caubet spelled out that Renault has already gone through its self-analysis phase and decided to keep going.

"Faced with this affair we had a choice," said Caubet to the French media last night, "To stop or to walk through the fire. We decided to walk through the fire and we're coming out pretty burnt, because the image of the brand has been extremely badly damaged.

"If we had wanted to stop F1, we would have done it sooner, to spare ourselves from all of that. More than words, we are speaking through our actions. Whether it be in the development of drivers, the engine supply side or the engagement in our car for 2010, which is almost done. What is impressive is the coherence of the team. There were many tensions and they are still there, because we are asking ourselves a lot of questions; ING is leaving us, the money is difficult, what is the future of Alonso and of the business model for F1"

As for the future management structure of the team, Renault has given itself four months to come up with the right plan. On the rumours of Alain Prost making a return to F1 as team principal of Renault, my trusted French colleagues say that he has asked for a very high salary which isn't playing well with the Renault management. There are some suggestions however that he may make an appearance in Singapore this weekend.

"We've opted for a temporary (management) solution because the team is bouncing back, " said Caubet. "Obviously it has gone through a painful and humiliating shock but it is working. The technical direction is under control, the drivers are determined and Viry (the engine base) is little by little rediscovering its reliability. We haven't followed up a single contact to find a team principal yet. First we need to determine the ideal profile, then find the right candidate. That could be December or January."

Caubet admitted that by leaving Flavio Briatore a free rein in the management of the team, it had got too far away from Renault's brand values and ultimately ended in a hugely damaging scandal,

"This team has to rediscover the Renault culture," said Caubet. "It's lost it a bit and it will be important to rediscover it. We have to rebuild links with the Renault base and on the ethical plan renew a respectful culture towards the rules and the sporting spirit. Beyond that we need to know what will be the tools which will permit us to manage the team in an efficient manner. We don't want to fall back into ways of the 1980s when the corporate side ran the race team, but we also do not want to reproduce the errors which have been made in leaving the team too much autonomy. We give ourselves four months to find a good compromise, the right level of autonomy."

The team has removed the ING and Mutua Madrilena stickers from its cars, but is not able to do so from the race shirts and overalls. So unless some rapid tailoring gets done, the ING executives will be unhappy to see their logos on the team personnel on TV pictures all weekend.

Interestingly they have placed previously unseen Renault stickers on the engine cover and other bodywork areas, which means that they may have had a heads up that they might need to bring out some stickers to replace ING.

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