Renault, Raikkonen, Red Bull and Bob Bell
October 9, 2010
The great thing about Formula 1 is that you can connect together so many different stories into theories, some rather far fetched others a lot less so. Two interesting sagas at the moment (apart from the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying) are the spat between Renault and Kimi Raikkonen, and the continuing development of Team Lotus (assuming they are called so in 2011) who are now going down a Red Bull route with Renault engines and the Red Bull gearbox.
First the Raikkonen story, F1 is always full of stories of possible driver deals, these are a great demonstration of Game Theory and remind me of my sadly, recently departed colleague, Stephen Regan. Steve was a superb teacher of the theory, and I always enjoyed hearing him work through the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ if I got the chance. In the F1 context the two players are normally the driver’s management and the teams. Stories of possible links and negotiations are stimulated by either the driver’s management who are suggesting a rumour about their driver and Team B in order to force the hand of Team A, who they are really focusing on. Similarly they can also be started by Team A who are negotiating the renewal of a contract with Driver C, and leak or announce that they are in talks with Driver D, in order to force Driver C to agree to their terms. Of course the real issue is who is bluffing and who isn’t. One interpretation of the Raikkonen situation is that his management are renegotiating his contract with the Citreon rally team and so suggested that he may be going back to F1 and the Renault team. The other scenario is that Renault are negotiating terms with their Russian driver Vitaly Petrov and so the Raikkonen story is to put pressure on Petrov’s management. Of course there is a further game going on and that is the game between the teams and their sponsors, for a team to be linked with a big name like Raikkonen when they are trying to close a deal with a sponsor is often very helpful. This wasn’t lost on the Times’ Kevin Eason who noted that following the Raikkonen episode, Renault announced a sponsorship deal with Flagman Vodka for the last four races of 2010, Kimi, of course, being well known for the odd tipple of the clear stuff.
The other interesting story is that Team Lotus will now use both Renault engines and a Red Bull gearbox for 2011, effectively creating a second Red Bull drivetrain, in the same way that Force India use the McLaren gearbox/engine package. The gearbox is important, not just for providing the gears, but also as the rearmost major component it has significant impact on the aerodynamics. As Red Bull’s Adrian Newey is regarded as the best aerodynamic brains in F1, you could infer that he has and will continue to design the most aerodynamic gearbox! The departure of Bob Bell from Renault also suggests that he may resurface at Team Lotus with his former colleague Mike Gascoyne. Although Gascoyne is the Technical Director and Tony Fernandes the Team Principal, Fernandes has rather too many other plates spinning to provide the long term focus needed to be Team Principal, so we could see Fernandes moving to Chariman, Mike Gascoyne moving to Team Principal and Bell taking over as Technical Director, let’s see what happens.