Renault fears for small teams


It wasn't so much the impact of the new regulations that caught the eye of fans on Monday as they pored over those darkened images of the new Sauber, rather the glaring lack of sponsors decals.

While the sidepod was emblazoned with the news that the Swiss team is 'celebrating' 25 years in F1, the true message wasn't fooling anyone. Sauber is in trouble.

This, of course, comes at a time we have just lost a team (again), and several others, including the legendary Williams, are making no secret of the fact that they are being left behind.

Having returned to F1 last year, at the launch of its first all-new car, Renault made much of its sponsors and partners, dragging them up on stage to explain why they were involved in the first place and then forcing them to pose for the cameras.

The French team made much of a recruitment drive which has seen it become "the fastest growing team on the grid", and that, along with the new car (and new engine, not to mention the upgrade to the Enstone facility, costs money.

However, while the French manufacturer, like Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, has money, it fears for those teams at the other end of the paddock, aware that as competition intensifies - and it will if Renault is seriously targeting fifth in the standings - the resultant spending 'arms race' will take its toll.

"I think this season will be an arms race, and I really feel for the teams who are under-resourced," said the French outfit's Managing Director, Cyril Abiteboul, according to Autosport.

"When I see this car that we are presenting, it is not the car that we are testing in Barcelona," he continued. "And the car in Barcelona will not be the car in Melbourne. So race-by-race we have got the introduction of new parts.

"I have been in a small team," he said, referring to his time with Caterham, "it was not too successful, and I really feel for the teams who have to keep money in mind. Resources will be very difficult for the small teams.

"I believe most of the car build budget of Force India will be gone by now," he predicted, "just to cope with the new regulations. That is something that we are taking into account with the level of resources that we have, we should be easily capable of beating teams like Haas and Force India and so on."

However, with Renault having quit the sport more times than Nigel Farage has stood down as leader of UKIP, Abiteboul is aware that the bean-counters, even at manufacturer teams, are watching, and that spending must be reigned in. Indeed, he cited the example of the size of his team's workforce, admitting that such numbers are not sustainable.

"If I focus on Enstone, we have moved from 475 I think when we bought it from Lotus, and we are currently at 580," he said. "We are planning to be 640 at the end of this year, and we are targeting something at the end like 650.

"If you compare with the benchmark, Red Bull and Mercedes are between 750 and 800. That is not where we want to go," he admitted. "We would like to think that with 650 we should be able to compete against them, but we would never be able to compete against them with what we have currently.

"I don't think it is very sustainable to have such large figures for two race cars frankly, so maybe something will have to be done from a regulation perspective to be able to cut that."

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Published: 22/02/2017
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