PARIS (AP) – A few weeks away from proudly unveiling its new car for the 2017 Formula One season, French manufacturer Renault now has to find a new team principal after the departure of Frederic Vasseur on Wednesday.
Vasseur left his role after one season, with Renault saying the decision was by mutual consent. No further information was given as to who will replace the Frenchman, but Renault will give full details of its plans when the new car is unveiled on February 21 – the earliest confirmed date so far of any team.
Until then, the team will be run by Renault Sport Racing’s president Jerome Stoll and managing director Cyril Abiteboul.
Renault withdrew as a works’ team from the constructor world championship after the 2009 season, and made its comeback last year after agreeing to take over Lotus. Vasseur played a key part in the relaunch and rebuilding of the team.
Renault finished a modest ninth in the constructors’ standings with Dane Kevin Magnussen scoring seven points and British driver Jolyon Palmer getting one.
With new engineers set to come on board and experienced German driver Nico Hulkenberg joining from Force India, hopes were high for this year. Hulkenberg even spoke of his ambitions the day before Vasseur’s departure.
“At Renault the next few years will be about turning a participant into a real contender – one that makes use of the advantages of a manufacturer in the best way possible to achieve the racing success of the past,” the 29-year-old Hulkenberg told the F1 website on Tuesday. “And believe me, we will.”
But it will be without Vasseur, who has spoken of clear differences of opinion over strategy.
“There was too much different vision in the management of the team, so it makes sense for me to leave,” Vasseur told Motorsport.com on Wednesday. “If you want to perform in F1, you need to have one leader in the team and one single way. If you have two different visions then the result is that the work inside the team is slow.”
However, Renault is confident that Vasseur – who enjoyed success in the GP2 and GP3 series with the Art Grand Prix team – will take on a different role “sometime in the future.”
F1, which is introducing sweeping rule changes for next season designed to make cars faster and races more exciting, has been hit with a spate of departures.
Paddy Lowe, who was the technical brains of Mercedes in his role as executive director, left on Tuesday. In Lowe’s time at Mercedes, the British-based team won both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles every year from 2014 to 2016.
Lowe is reportedly set to join Williams F1 with former Ferrari technical director James Allison set to replace Lowe.
In November, Ron Dennis, the veteran chairman and chief executive of the McLaren team, was forced out following a boardroom dispute – bringing to an end his 36-year stay with the British team. He was replaced by American Zak Brown, an ex-F3 racer who founded the motorsport marketing company JMI in 1995.
The 20-race F1 season starts on March 26 in Melbourne, Australia.