By Alan Baldwin
BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) – Renault were not shocked by Frederic Vasseur’s sudden departure as Formula One team principal and have no immediate plans to replace him, F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said on Thursday.
Vasseur on Wednesday blamed “too much different vision in the management” for his departure just over two months before the new season starts in Australia.
“We don’t feel shocked, we don’t feel weakened by yesterday’s announcement, which is something that had been discussed at length with Fred,” Abiteboul told reporters at the Autosport International show.
“The team principal role is something unique from team to team … as far as I am concerned, we will not replace Fred in the capacity of team principal,” said Abiteboul, speaking at an Infiniti Engineering Academy briefing.
“If we feel we are weakened or held back by the fact we don’t have a team principal, we will take action. But I don’t think that this is a necessity at this point in time.”
Renault, who finished ninth in the 2016 championship, started last season – their first back as a full constructor after taking over the failing Lotus team – without a designated principal.
Vasseur was handed the formal role in July after a mid-season restructuring that also saw former Caterham team boss Abiteboul move to the factory in Britain from the French headquarters.
Abiteboul said the team was still expanding and hiring staff in senior roles.
“We have a very strong structure,” he said.
“I’m not aware of any F1 team that was able to find the right structure from day one. Red Bull has had changes, Mercedes has had its changes.”
Champions Mercedes have Toto Wolff, who is also a shareholder, running their team but without having the designated role of principal. They announced on Tuesday that technical head Paddy Lowe was leaving.
While former champions Williams have 74-year-old founder Frank Williams as principal, his daughter Claire effectively runs the business and attends the key meetings.
Abiteboul said each team had their own requirements and the title was “very vague”.
“The business has changed, become more and more complex,” he added. “In the past, team principals were also team owners, omniscient and knew everything about all the technology involved and had a lot of experience in racing.
“The level of expertise is now so wide that it is impossible that one man has the full capacity and authority and understanding of everything.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ossian Shine and Janet Lawrence)