Rather than seek out big names to spearhead their comeback, the new Renault works squad opted for Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen and Great Britain’s Jolyon Palmer, a partnership boasting just a year’s F1 race experience.
“When the drivers were chosen the focus was already on 2018 and 2019,” Vasseur told Formula1.com. “That goes for the car side as well as for the driver side. We had to find the champion of 2019 - and not one from 2010.”
Vasseur freely admits that his task of bringing Renault back to the front of the F1 grid is a mid- to long-term project, but believes driver talent will be one of the cornerstones in ensuring that project meets its goals.
“If you look at the past, all the success stories were always based on drivers: Renault and Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel,” he continued. “So we will build up the team on drivers. This is an investment, just as is the wind tunnel or the engine.”
Magnussen - who spent a season racing with McLaren in 2014 - and rookie Palmer - reserve driver for Lotus prior to Renault’s takeover - endured tough starts to 2016, but the team made a breakthrough last time out in Russia, with both cars finishing and Magnussen scoring their first points.
Vasseur, who during his time as a team boss in GP2 and other junior series helped nurture the career of several current F1 stars, believes both men will be among the big names of the future, and even mentioned them among his tips for potential future world champions.
“I see a couple of youngsters who could do it,” he commented. “[Max] Verstappen is probably one of them; Esteban Ocon has beaten him in F3; Kevin did a very good job in [Formula Renault] 3.5, where he was in front of [Stoffel] Vandoorne; Jolyon won the GP2 title in front of Vandoorne - and I keep Stoffel in very high regards.”
Look out for the full, in-depth interview with Fred Vasseur on Monday, exclusively on Formula1.com.