With just under two weeks to go before the Bahrain Grand Prix, I felt it was time to do another summary of the news. There’s a lot to take in, even since Sunday when Kimi Raikkonen won in Sepang; this season is already shaping up to be busier than most. I wrote a long “News Round-up” article, but then realised there was too much to put in one posting. So instead I have broken them up. Therefore, this and the following three posts may seem to jump straight into the action without much faffing at the start. I’ll be interested to see if you guys prefer this method or not, but needless to say there is a lot to discuss. And it’s not even April yet…
Heikki Kovalainen has been doing a pretty good job at McLaren, and even though he made a silly mistake in Australia, the pace of the Finn has impressed many. But having made his peace with Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali by way of a handshake, it seems McLaren chief Ron Dennis has turned his attention to Renault’s Flavio Briatore. It is often said that Dennis didn’t handle Fernando Alonso very well while the Spaniard was at the Woking stable, and Alonso himself has stated that he is happier now he has returned to Renault. So why oh why has Dennis taken the opportunity to question Briatore’s management technique?
The question results from Dennis being quoted as saying that McLaren have systematically rebuilt Kovalainen into a confident racing driver after his time at Renault. The words uttered by Dennis are quite strong and definitely come across as a slap to the face of Briatore.
Heikki is a guy who was systematically taken apart last year and we have systematically put him back together again.
It [Heikki’s time at Renault] is a story about how this guy lost his motivation and was misguided in how he should go about his physical preparation. But credit to Martin [Whitmarsh] and the guys who analyse all of the potential candidates, going back to lesser formulae. We look for the patterns. Where was the driving skill? Who was in the best team? When we applied those criteria he [Kovalainen] was miles ahead of any other option. Ron Dennis.
I think it is fair to say that Kovalainen is doing well at McLaren, perhaps better then he was at Renault. And when Heikki made a sily mistake, Dennis immediately defended his young driver. Roll back twelve months and Flavio Briatore was scolding his drivers after a dismal start to Renault’s 2007 campaign.
It could be that Dennis is trying to reaffirm his ability to nurture drivers, it could be a simple bow shot to Renault. Or it could even be a realisation that Heikki needs little confidence boosters like these to help him along his way. Either way, part of Dennis’s speech is clearly directed towards Briatore and the words chosen are pretty strong.