I don’t envy Eric Boullier’s position in times like these. Imagine how tough this job would be. After struggling for two years and with pre-season testing already forecasting another difficult year. How do you keep a team motivated when the trajectory isn’t arcing?
“I went to the management, showed them the data and told them that we cannot accept another year like this,” Boullier said.
“We had a tough first year with Honda, we had a tough second year, and had expected progress good enough to get us back to where we belong – but Barcelona showed that we would go backwards and that was absolutely not an option.
“I obviously warned them about the consequences of another year of no results, where you keep everybody afloat.
“We have a new team, which has been reconstructed in the last three years: new people, very good new people – competitive people who used to win – and the danger was we’d lose them.
“The perception of a team is still very much based on drivers, because they are the faces of the team, but for me the real danger was losing those people.
“That was the discussion at the very beginning of the season.”
If keeping the team motivated isn’t difficult enough, I was worried the team would be poached by other teams and that happens quite a lot in F1. Think of Lotus F1, now Renault, when they were struggling and many of the folks took offers from other teams. This gutted their key brains and brawn and made life difficult. It is why you are seeing stories from Renault about staffing up, re-hiring and filling vacant and much-needed position to this day.
“When you look at what we have achieved in terms of car performance – chassis performance – we know that we are back on the podium, at the top,” he said.
“That for me is a huge reward – that we have achieved this in difficult circumstances.
“The other positive I take from the past three years is that the team is really joined now.
“We have been suffering so much for three years, but at the same time nobody has left the team.
“Everybody agreed that this team will be winning again.
“There is a huge trust and confidence in what we are trying to achieve and because of that we have gone up, up, up, keeping developing this car.”
A couple of years ago when former boss Ron Dennis said they had the best chassis on the grid, I laughed and I believe I was well within my right to do so but this year has been another story. I saw a very good chassis struggle with a very challenging power unit and in the hands of Fernando Alonso, Ron’s bravado may be nearly true. I think the team have found some solace in crafting one of the best chassis’s on the grid. I actually believe they do have one of the best, now.
Perhaps that is motivation enough to stay and with Renault coming in for 2018, let’s see if consistent points can be enough to keep the cohesion within the team. It will feel like a victory given the last three seasons.