Renault's balancing act

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The Elf controversy notwithstanding, Renault’s bid for a fourth successive Constructors’ title got off to a flying start. Both of its customers, Williams and Benetton, have already crossed the line first, prompting Ferrari’s Gerhard Berger to ponder: “The way that engine works, there’s no way I can catch them; not in one race, not in five. Renault are in another world…”

Renault Sport’s goal for the 1995 season is a simple one. “It seemed to us that the best homage we could pay Ayrton Senna rather than pulling out of F1, was, on the contrary, to keep on fighting,” says Patrick Faure, its President. “And fighting to win.”

It may have the best two teams in its armoury, but how — when such bitter rivalry exists between the two — can it keep both happy?

“A driver who is in a top team doesn’t like to see his engine supplied to another team, because you like to be in a privileged position,” admits Alain Prost, who experienced a similar situation both with Honda and Ferrari. “I remember Ayrton had particularly strong views on this subject. You prefer to have a one-to-one relationship. A driver who works on his engine often feels proud of what he’s done, and what he’s found out about it.”

“The decision to equip two top teams has caused us a few problems,” admits Bernard Dudot, the French manufacturer’s Technical Director. “It is a difficult challenge for us, but not as difficult as some of you might imagine. What was immediately clear was that it was of primary importance to us that our partners know we treat them equally.”

To that end, he spent the first race with Williams, the second with Benetton. He will continue to alternate throughout the season, much as he did when Renault supplied different teams in the turbo era. His technicians, of course, stay based with one operation, and Dudot pledges that no technical information will be passed between teams.

The V10 powerplants will be mated with the team’s own electronics package but, he insists, will otherwise by technically identical: “All engines, I can tell you, are within 10 horsepower of each other.”

Mecachrome, which last season supplied engines to Ligier, has been geared-up to undertake as much as a third of Renault’s overall workload, though Dudot refuses to be drawn on the precise destination of the sister company’s handiwork.

“When I think of Ferrari, I felt that the team didn’t have the ability technically to develop engines which were the best, and give them to another team,” says Prost, who bowed out from the sport in 1993 having finally achieved the ambition he strove for so hard since 1983: that of becoming World Champion with Renault. “I don’t think Renault will have that problem…”

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