In a meeting with the German press, Benetton-Renault technical director Mike Gascoyne explained that the slow haul back to top performance was exactly what the team needed to ensure its long-term future. "We knew that we would have to fight in the...
In a meeting with the German press, Benetton-Renault technical director Mike Gascoyne explained that the slow haul back to top performance was exactly what the team needed to ensure its long-term future. "We knew that we would have to fight in the first half of the year," said the English technical director, speaking out to defend the team's precarious start to this season.
"We could quite easily have continued with the Supertec V10 engine and taken fifth place in the constructors' championship in 2001, but that it is not what we wanted. In order to progress, we had to compromise. Although it was frustrating for our drivers to qualify in eighteenth or nineteenth, it was necessary because we did not want temporary solutions to interfere with our long-term plans."
The Englishman, who joined the team late in 2000 after a period of 'gardening leave' from his former employer Jordan, was unable to have much input into the early design of the car, which led to some aerodynamic weaknesses with the B201 chassis. This lack of input combined with reliability and performance problems with Renault's innovative 111° v-angle engine saw their drivers, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jenson Button, suffer in the first half of the year.
The two regularly qualified towards the back of the grid, and at times suffered the ignominy of being outstripped by Fernando Alonso's Minardi - a team running with a severely underpowered engine and with a fraction of the budget available to British based outfit.
As the team battled to improve in the early stages of the season they became the subject of much derision, however the German GP heralded a new dawn in their fight back to the front of the grid when both cars managed to finish within the top six. This improvement continued and was capped by Fisichella qualifying in sixth place for the Japanese GP.
Moving on to 2002, when Benetton will be run under its new branding of Renault for the first time, the designer believes that the manufacturer could possibly see victory in its first year, especially with the talented Jarno Trulli at the helm.
"Jarno is very fast in qualifying, in my opinion," he said. "While Giancarlo is better in the race. Both are, I think, potential winners and I cannot believe that McLaren did not ever consider the two for their second seat (when Hakkinen announced his sabbatical)." Trulli takes Fisichella's place at the team next season, with Fisichella swapping with his compatriot for a drive at Jordan. He made no comment on Button.
Renault look to have a strong package for the new season as long as they keep the momentum achieved in the final months of 2001 going.