The R25 was a championship winner, as was the R26, both chassis winning numerous races and claiming a drivers title each at the hands of Fernando Alonso. But after the Spaniards defection to McLaren in 2007, Renault produced a bit of a dog with the R27. When the Anglo-French team arrived at the first race, there were many unknowns. Fisichella had only won two races in the last two years and many doubted his ability to lead the team and rookie partner Heikki Kovalainen
car was pretty terrible and the team suffered a winless season. Fisichella’s name was dragged through the mud and the Italian lost a lot of reputation the world over. I feared that a talent such as Kovalainen would end up being lost due to the spectacular down turn of the Renault team. But both survived, and now they are on the up again. But thanks aren’t just owed to themselves and their new teams, because thanks are also due to the R28 and the man who believes he has six-tenths up his sleeve.
By January 2008, both Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen had been unceremoniously fired to make way for a returning Alonso and young rookie Nelson Piquet Jr. Kovalainen found solace at McLaren while Fisichella went to Force India. A strange move for the Italian but I suspect it was one of very few options available to him at the time. Both drivers reputations had been tested in 2007, partly thanks to the wayward car and lack of results, and partly thanks to poor management by Flavio Briatore. While all eyes were on Ron Dennis, few noticed just how often Briatore berated his men for lack of points.
But now we have the ability to make some comparisons. I grant you they are a little crude, but I’m going to make them regardless, the reputations of Heikki and Fisi being too important to ignore on this site.
The R28, the current Renault that has pounded its way around Albert Park and earlier today, Sepang, is a development of the R27. And knowing that the R27 wasn’t that great you’d expect a few improvements to have been made along the way. Thankfully (for this post), the 2007 season started out the same as 2008; Albert Park followed by Sepang.
|2007 Australia||2007 Malaysia||2008 Australia||2008 Malaysia|
|Giancarlo Fisichella||5th (4pts)||6th (3pts)||Ret (0pts)||12th (0pts)|
|Heikki Kovalainen||Ret (0pts)||8th (1pt)||5th (4pts)||3rd (6pts)|
|Fernando Alonso||2nd (8pts)||1st (10pts)||4th (5pts)||8th (1pt)|
|Nelson Piquet Jr||n/a||n/a||Ret (0pts)||11th (0pts)|
By the end of the 2007 Malaysian race Fisichella had accrued seven points, Heikki one. At the same point this year, Alonso rests on six while Piquet Jr is yet to score. In their new teams, Heikki has impressed with strong runs for McLaren and Fisichella looks settled in the Force India. The Finn should have been on two podium now but an error late in the Australian Grand Prix put paid to that. His overtaking move on Fernando Alonso was great though and undoubtedly put a smile on Ron Dennis’s face.
Further down the grid Giancarlo impressed during the winter in the old Spyker F8-VII. The new VJM01 isn’t much different and strong runs in free practice and qualifying underline the Italian’s strengths. His twelfth place finish in Malaysia was a great result, especially when you consider he outraced Rubens Barrichello (Australia result: 6th before penalty), Nico Rosberg (Australia result: 3rd) and Kazuki Nakajima (Australia result: 7th).
So should have Fisichella been given the berating he did last season for under-performing in the Renault? No, I believe not. For sure Giancarlo didn’t perform at his best, but the Renault R27 was a poor chassis. It has been evolved into the R28, but it would appear the team have taking a step backwards. Don’t forget, Fernando Alonso brings six tenths with him!
Heikki too deserves praise for claiming 30 points in 2007, something I feel Fernando Alonso will will struggle to match this season. The Finn’s performances so far in the McLaren MP4-23 have been good and he will only get better. A win is surely on the cards and once that milestone is broken I suspect Heikki’s success will gather pace quickly.
So where does this leave Renault? With a poor car and egg on their faces, I believe.