Now that John Iley has moved away from Renault and will be working for Ferrari next season, questions rise about what Renault is up to next season. It is apparently not a good evolution for Renault to see this man leave, after technical director Gascoyne joined Toyota.
The process began with Mike Gascoyne becoming a Toyota target early in the year. Gascoyne was made an offer that he could not refuse and unhappy to have designed an impressive car which was let down by the engine, was ready to move on. What was significant was in the end Renault agreed to take money rather than have Gascoyne sitting on the sidelines for six months. Some would argue that this sums up the state in which Renault finds itself. This will mean that Toyota F1 will be subject to much more Gascoyne influence and will almost certainly be stronger as a result. It is odd therefore that Renault chose this course of action.
The team's biggest problem is that despite a lot of hot air emanating from the public relations division, the Renault package for next year is going to be late-arriving and probably not as competitive as the current car. The fact that Renault has announced a new 90-degree V10 programme for 2005 is also an indication that it knows that 2004 is going to be a difficult year. Renault's engine boss Bernard Dudot alreay admitted that design of the engine will be similar to the design used on the engines from the 2000 season, however being completely new.
Since then Renault has confirmed that the RS24 engine will not actually run on a test bed until mid-January, which will leave very little time to check and improve the reliability of the new engine before the season kicks off in Australia in March. The new engine is believed to be taller, heavier and with a higher centre of gravity than this year's engine.
The question asked at the time of the time of the engine announcement was whether or not another year with an engine which is no match for Ferrari and BMW would lead to defections and the departure of Gascoyne and now Iley suggests that this is indeed the case. It will be interesting to see which other Renault engineers take off elsewhere.
The danger of all the engine troubles and subsequently the departure of some engineers may hinder Renault's plans to be fully competitive in 2005. It also means that drivers will be less interested to go to or stay at Renault.
It is worth noting that back in 1995 Benetton's previous team imploded when Michael Schumacher took off to Ferrari, leaving Flavio Briatore to go through a series of unsuccessful seasons which led, ultimately, to him being dropped by the Benetton Family in September 1997. (grandprix.com)