Renault has officially taken over the mantle of "Most Naughty Team" from McLaren over the course of the 2009 Formula One World Championship.
In less than two months, the team have been brought before the World Council for charges of two major sporting violations.
The Regie were rightly penalized for allowing Fernando Alonso's unsafe car to re-enter the Hungarian Grand Prix. Initially given a one-race ban, their penalty was rightly reduced to a major fine and they were allowed to race in Valencia.
A week from today, they will be brought back before the World Council for a charge that they ordered Nelsinho Piquet to intentionally crash on lap 14 of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order for teammate Fernando Alonso to be in an advantageous strategy position to win the race.
Whether or not the team is ultimately found guilty of the offense, there still must be an overhaul. The controversy in which the team has recently found itself is just one of many reasons for such a change.
Renault has relatively fallen off the face of the earth in competitiveness since they won two constructors and drivers championships in 2005 and 2006 with Fernando Alonso. The cars have been poorly designed, even if they have been improved of the course of each season with development.
Many thought that the loss of Alonso, considered by many to be a top development driver, contributed to the team's decline from 2006 to 2007. But his return hasn't brought Renault back to the front of the field, indicating there are more fundamental issues in the design department.
Furthermore, the cases of sporting misconduct they have faced this season point to poor management from the top. Failing to tether a wheel during a pit stop is simply inexcusable and points to a lack of preparation by the pit crew. And it's fairly obvious that Piquet would not be bringing a case before the FIA if he felt that he had been managed fairly at Renault.
Responsibility for all of the problems of the team belongs to one man and one man only, and his name is Flavio Briatore. A picture is worth 1000 words, Briatore's departure from the Hungarian Grand Prix before the end of the race says quite a lot about his real level of interest in the team's success.
Renault is a manufacturer and team with a rich history of success in Formula One. In addition to their championships with Alonso earlier this decade, they dominated the mid-1990s as an engine constructor with a string of championships with Williams (as well as Benetton in 1995).
They regularly contended for constructors championships as a manufacturer team in the 1980s with the man who should be its next leader at the wheel:
Prost already has experience as a team principal, albeit Prost Grand Prix was never able to achieve the necessary funds to be competitive. Some of the best managers learn through failure, and Prost would surely be better prepared for another go at team principal.
Secondly, there is no one person who has carried Renault to more success than Prost. In addition to his nine wins and near championship misses with the team in the early 1980s, he flatly dominated the 1993 championship with Williams-Renault in his final go at F1.
Prost's introduction as Team Principal at Renault would generate much enthusiasm given his legendary status as one of the greatest drivers in F1 history. The fact that he is French is obvious a convenient characteristic for the French team.
The Regie belongs in F1. If Renault stays and is serious about competing, they need to overhaul its leadership, beginning at the top with the team principal.
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