Bob Bell, Renault, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016

Renault more “run down” than people realised – Bell

2016 F1 season

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Renault have made slower progress than people expected this year because the team it bought at the end of last year was very “run down”, according to chief technical officer Bob Bell.

The French manufacturer took over the struggling Lotus outfit at the end of 2015 and appointed Bell soon afterwards. Bell said the team faced “a big challenge” to turn its form around.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Circuit of the Americas, 2015
Lotus struggled to the end of 2015
“I don’t think perhaps from the outside people realise how run down the Enstone squad had become in the last couple of years,” he said, “so there’s a lot to do.”

“As well as the process of rebuilding the team of course we had to build a car for this year and start work on an even better one for next year, which wouldn’t be terribly hard.”

“It’s been a challenge, it continues to be so, but there’s a very strong spirit in Enstone as anybody who knows the place will testify to and we’re certainly up to the challenge.”

Bell previously worked for Renault during its championship-winning 2005 and 2006 campaigns but the team has only scored points on three occasions this year.

“Of course corporately we’re not satisfied running around in tenth place and scoring single points,” he said. “Actually that single point meant a lot to us. I’ve won a lot of points in Formula One over the years and that point meant more to me than perhaps any other. It’s a great motivator and it really lifted team morale so actually it was quite an important achievement.”

Bell said Renault won’t be in a position to challenge for titles again until the 2020s.

Carlos Ghosn
Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn: prepared to wait until 2022?
“[Renault CEO Carlos] Ghosn is very clear in his objectives for the team,” said Bell. “He’s not here to make up the numbers, he’s here to see the team succeed.”

“He also, of course, has been through this cycle before and he knows what it takes and how long it takes to achieve that and he’s set us realistic objectives that are in line with that.”

“Next year the obvious step forward for us is to move into the midfield and be competitive there, 2018 to be looking at podiums and so on, and then out beyond that, four, five years hence, looking at a proper championship-winning campaign. No rocket science in that.”

“If you look at history, if you look at what it took when Red Bull bought Jaguar, when Renault previously bought Benetton or when Mercedes bought Brawn it took five years in each instance for them to win a championship. That’s the sort of timescale, the sort of road map we’ve set ourselves. I think it’s realistic and it’s in line with corporate expectation.”

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Keith Collantine
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  • 18 comments on “Renault more “run down” than people realised – Bell”

    1. This admission makes it interesting for the driver’s market, since someone as (relatively) old as Nico Hulkenberg will seriously wonder if he ever has a shot at a WDC with Renault. The alternative is to use it as a stepping stone in the eternal quest for a driver’s seat at either Mercedes or Ferrari (given Red Bull have their own internal pipeline), but those teams already have sight of various young stars.

      1. Personally I think Hulkenburg’s chance of a top driver have passed by. He probably had another 5 years before going the way of Massa (midfield team needs experience). Sadly for him that will happen next year if he signs for Renault. In the next 5 years Renault probably won’t be challenging for the title and the top teams have plenty of better driver options open to them for the foreseeable future. A big potential talent wasted in my opinion.

      2. I think it makes sense – Hulk has another 5-6 years in F1 (7 years if he goes til Button’s age).

        Considering he isn’t getting a Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull seat, moving to a factory team who have plans (and more importantly, funds) to move up the grid seems like the best chance he has of winning anything. Force India are having a good season this year but this is about as good as it’ll get for them.

        1. And we can’t forget Hulk’s standards of success in F1 are still pretty low. A maiden podium would be a step foward to him, so betting on Renault would make sense if they do become regular podium contenders by 2018.

      3. Hulkenberg is betting on a good Renault car in the next two years. If Entsone fails to live up to the hype again, I’m sure he can find a drive in the WEC.

      4. Remember when everybody was praising Hulk’s performances at Sauber? A lot of people were thinking he could take Massa’s Ferrari seat. Considering what the 2014 Ferrari was like, I’m now glad that didn’t happen as it may have tarnished his career. I hope he still gets another shot at a top drive though.

      5. Going to Renault makes sense in a way for Hulk similar to what Alonso must have been thinking going to McLaren/Honda. Has FI risen as high on the grid as they possibly can and can Renault go higher over the next few years? As others have mentioned there are no seats for Hulkenberg at Ferrari/RBR/Merc. This *could* be his best possibility. Time will tell.

        As far as Bell’s comments go it seems impossible to not know how depleted Lotus was considering how long ago the attrition began. At least they have the facilities and budget to attract much needed talent.

    2. Bell says externally people don’t realize how run down Enstone was before Renault bought the team, but what about Renault themselves. To me it sounds like they too underestimated how lean Enstone had become. I wonder if it would’ve been better for them to buy Force India, even at a much higher price. It certainly would have cut 2 years of the process to become front runners again.

      1. Yeah but with Renault previously owning the team, it was never likely they’d return and buy a different team. For all the issues they’ll have encountered by the team being run lean, they’ll have avoided other issues by already having run the team previously.

      2. In addition to what @petebaldwin mentions, one has to look at the facilities available @me4me. Part of how Force India operates so efficiently is by having a lot done at suppliers. They don’t have all of their own manufacturing, they don’t have a simulator, windtunnen, nothing.
        The best part about them is their FOM Income and the people they employ. And as with every takeover, the question remains whether people would stay with the team and wheather that would actually work as a manufacturer team.

        Enstone still has solid facilities, and while it is 3 years back that they were last invested in, that is still a good basis to build upon. And off course a lot of the personell still remember the Renault days.

      3. They’ve run the Enstone team and facilities before though. They will have scored a good deal on buying them plus have familiarity with the operation to rebuild it back up to its former status. Buying Force India is a big unknown in terms of running the team and growing it to a front-running team.

      4. They can only blame thenselves. They waited until late in the season so that they could buy the team for £1 (+ debt).

    3. It’s nice to hear a the team voice realistic expectations and that the CEO shares them, for now at least. I think we should bear in mind that if for some reason the parent Renault business falls on hard times, the F1 will be the first thing to go…

    4. No, Bob. Enstone Team not on the stage of ‘run down’ in the end of 2015. The precious Renault of yours drown their spirit down. You knew that they in the verge of collapse yet you delay your announcement till the very last minutes. Not only you create a long and painful uncertainty among the team and let them take a pity from Bernie you too had been successfully destroy their morale by the time you officially take Lotus over.
      It’s not smart to use a hostile takeover approach for a team based entity. Eat it.

      1. @ruliemaulana, most of the people who left the team had already done so by late 2014 – Genii indicated later that they’d had a net loss of around 100 people by that point in time, so the number of people who left in 2015 is smaller than you think (I believe it was put at around 20 people – not insubstantial, but equally not as dramatic as you’d think).

    5. Renault will be gone from F1 long before they’ve won a WCC or WDC. The next auto downturn (recession) will put the parent company at risk. Mark this post.

      1. Renault will win an F1 WCC in the next 10 years. Mark this post.

        See? I can make crapshots as well.
        Arguments, arguments are what it’s all about.

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