A boss of the French squad has played down suggestions that Renault’s fall from grace in 2007 is simply due to the departure of world champion Fernando Alonso.
It is oddly coincidental that as the Spaniard switched as a back to back title winner from Renault to McLaren for 2007, the Enstone based team almost instantly struggled for pace.
McLaren, on the other hand – with Alonso on the top step of the podium – dominated Sunday’s Malaysian grand prix, after failing to win a single race in 2006.
But Renault team manager Steve Nielsen denied that simply missing Alonso can explain the team’s massive drop in performance compared to last year.
“If (the deficit) was two or three tenths, I’d say it could be that,” Nielsen said, adding that Renault’s deficit to the frontrunners is actually more like a second and a half per lap.
He insisted: “Fernando, good as he is, is not worth that much.”
Renault chiefs have already admitted struggling to adapt to Bridgestone tyres over the winter, but team principal Flavio Briatore suggested in Malaysia that the problem is lagging development in all areas.
He said Renault sacrificed crucial development time in preparation for this year by trying to beat Ferrari to the 2006 titles.
“Now we are a little bit late, we know that, and we need to recover quickly,” the Italian said.