Why Renault were right to cash in on Senna

Nick ‘Steady Eddie’ Heidfeld has achieved what almost everyone expected, he has finished higher than his teammate in all but two races this season and has scored points at 6 of the 11 rounds so far, so why are Renault giving him the heave-ho?

It appears clear to me the sole reason for swapping Heidfeld with Senna is finance. Team Lotus Renault, are all but bereft of sponsorship and with Heidfeld being a paid driver on the team it does make financial sense for this move to take place. Senna would generate significant funds for the team aiding the development of next year’s car in time for Kubica’s return.

However, understandably this deal has not overawed the fans, Eddie Jordan being a particularly vocal opponent, and it’s not hard to see why. Over the years the ‘pay driver’ option has introduced some of the most diabolical drivers to F1 fans (Ide, Yoong, Marquez) while the high watermark of the ‘men who pay’ is Pedro Diniz’s decidedly average results in the mid-90s.

Senna’s ability to find reverse on a car and navigate a circuit at a comparable speed to his teammate means he’s excused being tarred with the Ide brush. However, I’m not expecting him to match Heidfeld in terms of performance, in fact I expect him to finish closely behind Petrov. Herin lies the problem. Renault were left rudderless when Kubica’s crash eliminated him from the running, in Heidfeld they had found a consistent points-scorer who could develop the car better than almost anyone on the grid. Senna does not yet have this in his locker and if the deal proves to be permanent or even a multi-race deal, the ramifications will be felt next year when Kubica steps into a car that has fallen behind the pack.

However, it is my understanding that the deal is similar to that which Renault rivals Lotus undertook with Senna’s former teammate Karun Chandok, whereby Heidfeld will vacate his race seat for a one off race. This brings together the best for everyone. Renault get their money, Senna gets a race and Heidfeld keeps his drive for the rest of the year developing a car capable of winning races when and if Robert Kubica eventually returns.


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