A warm wel­come back for Re­nault

F1 Racing - - IGNITION / ANTHONY ROWLINSON / 01.16 -

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.

Gosh. It’s al­most Christ­mas. So be­fore you log off for the year, may we draw www.mymagazines.com.au to your at­ten­tion? It’s here that you’ll find all the best sub­scrip­tion of­fers for F1 Rac­ing and our sis­ter ti­tles. There’s no bet­ter Christ­mas gift!

Fol­low An­thony on Twit­ter: @Rowl­in­son_F1

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