A warm welcome back for Renault
You might not know the name Paul Seaby, but you will almost certainly be familiar with his presence at the centre of one of the most famous F1 images. Remember that shot of a Benetton mechanic wreathed in sheets of orange flame? It’s Seaby in the eye of the firestorm – a terrifying moment captured by F1 Racing principal photographer Steven Tee, as Jos Verstappen’s car lit up during a refuelling malfunction on lap 15 of the 1994 German GP.
‘Seabs’ – singed but unhurt in the blaze and nowadays team manager of the same squad (in the guise of Lotus F1) – is one of those guys who are part of the very fabric of F1. And there are plenty of his ilk at the Enstone operation known variously over the years as Benetton, Benetton-Renault, Renault, Lotus Renault and Team Lotus. The likes of Seabs, Alan Permane (trackside ops director), and ex-Enstone émigrés such as Jonathan Wheatley and Paul Monaghan at Red Bull, Pat Symonds and Steve Nielsen at Williams, Eric Boullier at McLaren, James Allison at Ferrari and others too numerous to mention, are the grit behind the glamour. It’s no coincidence that many of the key personnel peppered throughout the paddock are ‘Team Enstone’ graduates. This is a classic zero-nonsense race team, high on spirit, low on fuss, entirely focused on the job at hand: going racing. Even in a year as tough as 2015 has been for them, with hand-to-mouth funding and a reduced staff, they were still able to pull off a deserved podium in Spa: step forward Romain Grosjean for one of the most brilliant drives of the season.
So it’s with no little delight that we report that this embattled squad look at last to have received the lifeline they so thoroughly merit, in the shape of a takeover by Renault and the promise of a full ‘works’ F1 entry for 2016 (see Insider). A team with this much racing DNA in their veins need to be in the thick of the action (see also McLaren) and with Renault backing, there’s every prospect they will return to the sharp end soon.
Why are we so confident? Well, Team Enstone have always punched above their weight, whether in winning back-to-back title doubles in 2005-06 with Fernando Alonso, or delivering smart-strategy wins with Kimi Räikkönen in 2012 (Abu Dhabi) and 2013 (Australia). They know how to win and when teams like this are healthy, so is Formula 1. As Seabs tweeted on the day the Renault takeover was announced: “I’ve learnt that if you needed a team to stick together through thick and thin, I have it. Every last one I would take into battle and feel confident they would stick with me. Enstone and Renault are back together. We will be strong again.”
Chapeau, Renault, for doing the right thing. And to all at Enstone: bonne chance.
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