Perhaps now would be an appropriate time to apologise for a month’s worth of silence, but there are two things we should consider first:

1) The writer of this piece has earned precisely no money at all from over 8 years of writing on this here Internet.  He does however earn a sum of money for doing something entirely different, which has taken up most of his attention for the last few weeks.
2) Absolutely nothing of any consequence has happened.

Until today, that is.  Bruno Senna will partner Vitaly Petrov at Renault for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, with Nick Heidfeld the man to make way.  Why?

There remains a suspicion that the team’s problems are more car than driver, especially given that both Renault drivers took podium finishes in the early part of this season, but Quick Nick hasn’t pulled up any trees of late.  In his defence, neither has Petrov – only once, when the Russian finished 5th in the wet Canadian race, has a Renault finished in the top 6 since that pair of podiums at the first two events.  The team, though, clearly expected more from a man of Heidfeld’s talent and pedigree, both in terms of results and of car development.  It could be that.

It could just as easily be that the team’s owners, Genii Capital, have just put together a business deal which sees them become a key constituent of a large South American private equity investment company.  It might, then, make commercial sense for a South American driver to sit at the wheel of one of their racing cars for a little while.  Petrov has a multi-year contract, Heidfeld’s filling in while Robert Kubica recovers from his pre-season rallying crash and one imagines that such details might have an impact upon the level of severance pay being discussed.

Thinking ahead a month or so, to the time of the Italian Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean should have wrapped up the GP2 title by then and started looking for a late-season return to F1, having previously replaced friend of Nelson Piquet Jr during the second half of 2009.  Grosjean remains on Renault’s books as one of their legion of reserve drivers and might find his route into the team a little more straightforward if he’s able to directly replace another reserve, Senna, rather than Heidfeld.  If it’s substitute replacing substitute, you’re not dumping your lead driver.  You’re just evaluating your talent pool.

In saying that, the first answer might be the one to go for.  Renault might genuinely have fired their highest-placed driver in this season’s championship purely for performance reasons.  Feel free to pick the answer you’re happiest with.


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