Rookie's crash adds to Renault's embarrassment

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The Independent Online

There was further embarrassment for Renault in the first practice session for the Singapore Grand Prix yesterday when the rookie Romain Grosjean looped his car into a spin in Turn 17, bringing out the red flag momentarily in an incident horribly reminiscent of Nelson Piquet Jnr's deliberate act at the same corner here last year. It was an image the beleaguered team could have done without.

But Renault's interim managing director, Jean-François Caubet, later hinted strongly that Renault are likely to stay in F1 when he called for a change in their culture away from the excessive freedom they had granted the former Benetton team under the stewardship of Flavio Briatore.

He also said there was no hurry to appoint a team principal, and that the engineering head, Bob Bell, could satisfactorily fill the role for the foreseeable future. "Clearly the team has been through a painful and humiliating shock, but we continue racing and have two main objectives: performance and financing."

Mark Webber demonstrated how narrow the line was between traction and loss of control here as practice got underway on a slippery track yesterday. The Australian set the fastest time in the second floodlit session before spinning his Red Bull into the pit lane wall when he pushed a fraction too hard. His time was subsequently bettered by his team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Both need strong results to shore up their fading world championship chances, but with Jenson Button fifth for Brawn, after setting the pace together with team-mate Rubens Barrichello in the first session, the two contending teams seem set for an even contest.

"It was slippery out there," Button reported, "but I'm reasonably happy with what we did today."