Renault have said a lot so far this season, so much so in fact, that one might suspect the team of talking more than performing. Following on from their two victorious years in 2005 and 2006, the R27 has stopped the Anglo-French squad in its tracks, and given the advantage to rivals Ferrari and McLaren. The competitiveness of Renault’s 2007 car has lead many to suspect that team boss Flavio Briatore made an error in retaining Giancarlo Fisichella and promoting Heikki Kovalainen, laying the blame on the shoulders of the drivers. However, this isn’t necessarily so, and the team ahave been quick to defend and praise their pilots in the recent weeks.
Before the season started (and before the capabilities of the new car were known), Technical Director Pat Symonds went on record to say that 2007 has to be the year that Fisichella ups his game and wins multiple races. Quite simply, Pat stated that this year would be “make or break” for the Italian. Then in Australia, just after the first Grand Prix on the season, Briatore lambasted both his drivers for under-performing, exclaiming that Fisichella was already back in his hotel half way through the race. Not exactly morale-boosting, but I certainly don’t expect anything less from Flavio!
However, despite the criticism, it should be noted that Giancarlo has scored points in every race so far, and Heikki upped his game in Malaysia to score his first career point in Formula One. Speaking before the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend, Symonds has reflected again on his drivers performances.
Giancarlo has been very impressive so far this season. A lot of our esteem for him is rooted in the way he handled our 2001 season, when he put huge effort into making the most of a difficult car. We are seeing something similar this year. The R27 is a hard car to drive consistently, but in spite of this, he has driven very consistent races. He has taken the car to the limit of what it is currently capable of, and contributed in every way he can to helping resolve our current problems. We couldn’t ask any more of him.
So finally Renault have praised Giancarlo, and kind of admitted that the real issue is with the car, not necessarily the driver. This will certainly boost Fisichella, knowing that the fiery Flavio isn’t out to get him. But although that may be comforting to Fisichella, the team still need to sort out their car, and pronto. McLaren lead the constructors title with 44 points, followed closely by Ferrari with 39. Renault are fourth with a mere 9 points, half as much as third placed team BMW.
The road, Renault, is very, very long…