F1 team principals are a disappearing breed

Fri Feb 5, 2016 8:34pm EST
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One has lost another of its principals.

Renault, returning as a constructor after buying back the team they sold in 2009, this week followed McLaren and reigning world champions Mercedes in doing away with the once exalted position of team principal.

Frederic Vasseur will be racing director instead, reporting to Renault Sport managing director Cyril Abiteboul under president Jerome Stoll -- with company chief executive Carlos Ghosn above all.

It is very different to last time.

Then the French car giant had Italian Flavio Briatore -- a flamboyant multi-millionaire who exercised complete control while never straying far from the celebrity gossip pages -- as F1 team principal.

A decade or two ago, the principals were the main men in the paddock 'Piranha Club', big egos battling for supremacy and sometimes, when they could agree with the governing body, deciding the future of the sport.

Briatore, who remains close to Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, won world titles with Benetton and Renault but was ousted after a Singapore race-fixing scandal that led to banishment from the paddock and Renault selling the team.

They re-acquired it in December but Abiteboul, himself a former principal of the now-defunct Caterham team, told Reuters that while Formula One teams could not be run by committee a new type of management was needed.   Continued...

The new Renault RS16 Formula One racing car is seen during its official presentation at the company's research center, the Technocentre, in Guyancourt, near Paris, France, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier