It’s lights out, and away we go…
The irony of using the above quote from Sahara Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg as the headline for my first blog post is not lost on me. It was a rare but refreshing comedy moment in a weekend besieged by press conference dramas, media standoffs and snapchat posts. Alongside the (many) outbursts of Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, it proved to be one of the funnier moments of an otherwise tense and, let’s face it, awkward Grand Prix weekend at Suzuka.
The Japanese Grand Prix provided plenty of drama and thankfully, the time period leading up to this weekend’s showdown in Austin hasn’t been either. This week, Silverstone’s very own Force India were shocked by the announcement of Huldenberg’s move 30 miles South-West to Enstone. Reading through the analyses of the move has made it clear that there will not only be a shift in the midfield driver market come 2017, but also that no-one actually knows whether his decision will pay off.
Some inevitably began to draw conclusions to Lewis Hamilton’s choice to leave the McLaren team he called home and take his chances at Brackley with the Mercedes team under the stewardship of Ross Brawn (below). Promises of a pack-leading car, further world championships and the opportunity to race alongside his best buddy from Karting were enough to persuade Lewis, and it would appear that the opportunity created by the 2017 regulation changes have been enough to attract Nico.
It is true that the changes in regulations and subsequent differences to the cars in 2017 provide an opportunity rarely seen for the midfield to get a jump on the current leading teams, however they do appear to be missing one key ingredient at the Renault team – someone with a proven track record of taking advantage of a good old regulations shake-up.
That’s where the aforementioned Ross Brawn comes in. It is not a coincidence that his (seemingly always) happy face finds its way into this post as his recent comments about his Silver Arrows departure have caused quite a stir today (Wednesday).
In Formula 1, good cars and championships seem to follow some around the paddock like a bad smell. No matter what their disposition and area of expertise, some just attract the right people and it therefore manifests in a fast car. As well as Brawn, another example of this would be Adrian Newey. It took me a while to get there, but this leads me on to my point…
The Renault F1 team do not have a Ross Brawn-type leader at the moment, but there is one thing they do have: money. Being a works team backed by one of the world’s most prominent road car manufacturers does have its plus points. Renault, for example, don’t have the quandary of balancing the need for financial backing with sacrificing ability.
They have their sights set high and have opted for an experienced (if perhaps underachieving) lead driver from 2017. Let’s face it, they can only really move forwards from their position this year, especially when Sauber, for example, will have a year-old engine.
But is it the right choice for Hulkenberg?
It must be frustrating for the German, having a car that regularly scores points and could potentially on its day trouble the usual podium-placers into not taking it as easy as they could on some weekends.
His belief seems to be that within a few years, the French marque could be pushing him towards the chequered flag first and it certainly has provoked discussion among F1 fans this week as to whether they can turn back the clock and challenge for both world championships once again.
Money can only take you so far. Obviously it’s the decisions Renault take and what they choose to spend it on that will prove to be key. If money were the determining factor, Ferrari, who take the Lion’s share of commercial revenue from the sport would be at least fighting the Silver Arrows on pace alone.
If they can recruit the right people (Hulkenberg is a good start) then we could see a Renault renaissance within the next five years. If they don’t, midfield mediocrity could again be the defining description of their next few seasons. The “aero formula” (thank you Martin Brundle) that excites those in the paddock ready for a fresh start presents a great opportunity for the team, but it’s what they do from here on in back at base that will influence their future.
Nico Huldenberg is a very good option for a team looking to rebuild almost from the ground up, but is swapping black race overalls for gold ones the right choice for Nico?
Only time will tell. Please do comment below and give me your opinions, they are greatly appreciated. Enjoy this weekend’s United States Grand Prix and for now…
See ya later!