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Punished as a result of its success?

NEWS STORY
01/08/2006

Despite reports elsewhere, Renault will not make a decision on whether it will use its controversial 'mass damper' system in Hungary until the very last minute, as at this time the French outfit remains undecided.

There appears to be a misconception that the team was banned from using the system in Germany, but this is not the case.

Following the race stewards decision that the system was legal - as it had been right up until the French Grand Prix - Renault was free to carry on using it, however, with the FIA appealing the stewards decision, the French outfit had to make a choice as to whether to race with the dampers - and subsequently lose the points, in addition to incurring further punishment - or go ahead and run the R26 without the system. The team chose the latter option.

With the appeal not due to be heard until just prior to the Turkish Grand Prix, and in the face of a mounting challenge from the Ferrari, not to mention a drop-off in its own performance, Renault has to make a choice as to whether to run with the system this weekend, and thereby risk 'punishment' at a later date, or bite the bullet and use the mass dampers.

Whatever they decide however, the drop off in performance in Germany cannot be entirely down to the absence of the mass dampers. After a run of four straight wins, Renault has now conceded three straight victories to Ferrari, and only in one of these races was the system absent.

According to who you believe the mass dampers are worth around 3 to 4 tenths of a second a lap, therefore the performance drop-off in Germany cannot have been solely down to their removal, and one only has to look at the state of the French team's used tyres - conveniently left out on display for all to see - to see where the main problem appears to lie.

With a test ban until late August, and Michelin's imminent withdrawal from Formula One, it remains to be seen what the two French companies can come up with.

The Renault R26, much like its predecessor, continues to be bullet-proof, indeed of the 1552 race laps this season the R26 has failed to complete just 36 - Fisichella in Australia.

Renault and Alonso were cruising to their second titles, with many race fans, and the powers that be, already despairing of a repeat of 2002, albeit by a different team, until the FIA decided that a component that was perfectly legal all season is suddenly illegal, putting the World Champions in an impossible position.

As Renault ponders whether to take a gamble this weekend, and knowing the FIA it is not going to lose its appeal, one wonders how the French team will react, for the ban - coming in the midst of the test-ban period - couldn't have come at a worse possible time, as all parties involved well know.

The performance in Germany has, unsurprisingly, led to conspiracy theories of JFK and Princess Diana proportions, however, there has also been speculation - on forums and bulletin boards (where else!) - that Fernando Alonso is cracking under the pressure.

The Spaniard was certainly riled this weekend, but who can blame him. As for cracking under pressure... he is merely frustrated, but who wouldn't be under such circumstances?

In the days ahead the French outfit has a difficult decision to make, however, one cannot help but feel that much like Ferrari a couple of seasons back, Renault is being punished as a result of its success.

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