Bruno Senna replaces Heidfeld. People ask “why replace an average driver with a below average driver”

It’s easy to laugh at the Lotus Renault F1 Team. Renault didn’t want them after they were caught cheating at Singapore, so it sold them to a venture capital company with no capital.

Now Renault can’t get it’s name away from the team, whatever reputational damage the team does.

Meanwhile Group Lotus has provided a bit of smoke and mirror title sponsorship, but lost a court case for the right to call its cars lotuses, so Renaults they remain, whilst the only chassis named lotus on the grid is that of Team Lotus.

Oops.

And now we see team member after team member walking away from the former Renault factory team, and serious questions asked about the long term strategy.

In an era when we have back marker teams with strong backing and an aspiration to become front runners, Renault are sadly becoming an example of a front running team with back marker backing, and you don’t need to be a genius to map their decline and fall over the next few years, as the brain drain and cash constraints inevitably lead to steadily worse car performance.

Fast forward 10 years and the Renault name will have gone, as will the Lotus name (once Group Lotus does a SAAB). The Renault engines will have gone to pastures new, and the once great technical team will have moved on to teams higher up the grid.

No need to fast forward that far however to see the biggest clue to their lack of front runner status. The drivers.

Kubica is tragically unavailable due to his horrific pre-season accident, but were he available I’d say Mark Webber, Felipe Massa, even Jenson and Lewis, would be having sleepless nights about his 2012 plans right about now.

I expect Jenson and Lewis would have meekly re-signed as soon as they could, and Felipe and Mark would still be very much kept in limbo by their teams.

So to the drivers they have. Heidfeld, a solid performer who makes up for a lack of outright quali pace with good development feedback and race craft, and Petrov, who after a terrible first season is performing better and more importantly thinking and acting like a team leader.

Heidfeld’s experience has kept him just ahead of Petrov in the points, but the only time he’s set the world on fire is when the front engine exhausts have caused an air bottle in the sidepod to explode.

He’s getting them points though, and if they think replacing him with Bruno Senna is going to get them from fifth to fourth they are sadly mistaken.

So sit back, enjoy the slow decline of a once great team, as the two pay driver team mates slug it out on track.

Unless I’m wrong, in which case, Senna – the sequel, will be great viewing.

But if I was a Brazilian VC firm with a new shareholding in the former Renault team, apart from asking “oh god what have I done” if I wanted a star Brazilian driver I’d be on the phone to Tony Kanaan.

After all, he’s driving for a team that isn’t really Lotus as well.

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