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Williams Announce a New Renault Engine Deal

Jacques Villeneuve at the wheel of a Renault-powered Williams at the 1996 Hungarian GP

The Williams team have had their worst season start ever, and they’ve scrambled into damage control mode hoping to reverse the trend, or at least stop it in its tracks.  It was recently announced that technical director Sam Michael would step down (as in leave the team entirely) at the end of this season, and former chief designer at McLaren Mike Coughlan will be essentially taking his place.

Coughlan, it will be remembered, was forced to resign from his position at the Woking squad in 2007 as a result of the industrial espionage scandal that saw McLaren come into possession of an 800 page dossier of Ferrari’s technical secrets.

McLaren, of course, insisted they were guiltless as they hadn’t actually used any of the secrets.  Isn’t that a bit like stealing someone’s wallet and claiming that you didn’t really commit a crime because you haven’t spend any of the money in the wallet?

In any event, Williams are implementing a number of changes with the hope of placing themselves back on the track towards, if not podiuks and wins, at least in the general vicinity of the upper portion of the midfield bunch.

Currently, Williams lies ninth in the championship standings, with only four points, which places them at the very bottom of the point-earning teams, and ahead of only those teams who have yet to earn any points at all, i.e. the “moving chicane” teams of Lotus, HRT and Virgin.

In their effort to dig out of the hole, aside from the management shuffle mentioned above, Williams have also announced a new engine deal with Renault.  It will be remembered that Williams enjoyed their greatest successes when their cars ran a Regie behind the cockpit.

Will a Renault link-up deliver Williams from their current doldrums?  That remains to be seen.  Certainly, considering that Renault powered Red Bull to their recent championship, it couldn’t hurt.  The deal is to begin next year, and once implemented 25% of the field will be powered by the Regie.

This is perhaps more significant than the latest Williams stratagem.  Renault sold a majority stake in their branded team to Genii Capital prior to last season, and prior to this season they sold off the remaining slice to Lotus (or at least one of the companies currently using that name).

Ergo, Renault is no longer a team owner, except in name.  They have decided that the best means of leveraging their resources in the sport is to be an engine supplier only.  This was their modus operandi in the 1990s, and it served them well: they racked up multiple titles with Williams and Benetton.

Of course, they won two title as a manufacturer team, as well, with Fernando Alonso behind the wheel, but being an engine supplier for multiple team allows them to create efficiencies and economies of scale that might elude them as outright team owners.

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