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Formula 1: How Renault Halted Three Careers in 2011

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 27:  Vitaly Petrov of Russia and Renault leads from team mate Bruno Senna of Brazil and Renault during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 27, 2011 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Antony HerbertAnalyst IIIDecember 17, 2011

In 2011, Renault were unfortunate to lose the capabilities of their No. 1 driver, Robert Kubica. They made a careful and logical decision in naming Nick Heidfeld as his temporary replacement.

Alongside kept driver Vitaly Petrov, the team had a positive start to the campaign, as both drivers scored a third-place podium finish and amassed a credible run of points.

But then Renault made mistakes. Heidfeld had not led the team the way they had wanted, so they shipped him away in place of the unproven Bruno Senna. 

As Senna and Petrov went into the second half of the season, Renault began focusing instead on the 2012 car and results for the current season subsequently began to dwindle.

Adrian Sutil took full advantage by climbing above Petrov in the drivers championship and Bruno found himself in the points only once. A run of finishes outside the Top 10 was not what they would have expected at the beginning of the season, but the pair could do little to subvert this occurrence. 

In hindsight, you can judge that Renault would have done better to keep Heidfeld.

The German appeared stronger than Senna in the fact that he was visibly faster than Petrov and the Brazilian was not. Maybe he would have snuck a few points scoring finishes and found himself a drive elsewhere for 2012. 

To be fair to Senna though, he was unlucky to come in at a time when Renault lost momentum, speed and development against their rivals. 

We have seen with someone like Jenson Button in his times at Honda that negativity from a team can breed negativity in the drivers, and this seemed to be the case for both Senna and Petrov.

How can you perform if your team are not providing appropriate attention to current development?

Should Sutil take the remaining seat at Williams, there is only one realistic opportunity for a full-time drive in 2012 and that is at back-enders HRT. 

Renault have become Lotus and brought in the capable hands of former world champion Kimi Raikkonen and an inexperienced but celebrated racer in Romain Grosjean.

This leaves both Senna and Petrov out of a drive. You can't help but feel sorry for the latter, who, after a debut season of little note, provided some credible performances in 2011. 

Petrov therefore deserves a chance to prove himself at a team who will not give up halfway through the season. The Russian has highlighted to us this year that he has ambition and spark evident, he just needs to tools to regularly apply it. 

For Bruno, it would be the second time he has been left on the sidelines after HRT did not keep him on for 2011. 

The overall outcome of it all is that Renault have now left three drivers with Formula 1 careers in jeopardy. You have to comprehend that for Nick Heidfeld, it is one confidence-bashing decision too far. 

There are just arguments that all three did not ignite enough excitement to stake claim to a drive, but then for the most part that opportunity was taken out of their hands by a team who nosedived without caution and whose choices seemed misjudged. 

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