Renault has hit back at Kimi Raikkonen's claims that it used his name to try and boost its image, as the team insisted it had been totally transparent in its dealings with the former World Champion.
Raikkonen spoke out earlier this week by saying he was "100 percent" sure he would not race for Renault in 2011 despite having been in contact with the team, and expressed disappointment that the team had talked up its link with him.
However, Renault team principal Eric Boullier has dismissed Raikkonen's suggestions that it was trying to play the media by talking about the Finn's interest, insisting his comments to the press over the past few weeks had merely been honest responses to questions.
"We have not piggy-backed on Kimi's image at all, which is what he has been claiming in the press," Boullier told AUTOSPORT in Japan. "We were contacted by his managers after Spa. They wanted to enter into discussions and at that time we said: 'Please wait. Yes, we are very flattered that you have contacted us, but we need to finish the evaluation of Vitaly's [Petrov] potential and from that point, when we have our own conclusion, we will get back to you.' There was nothing else.
"Since then, I had not got back to them because we had not finished the evaluation of the potential of Vitaly and there was nothing else to say. I never used the media, and I don't see the benefit of telling to the media that Kimi is interested and chasing us. What would be the purpose of this?
"At the end, there was clearly a big interest in the media and during the last week the media kept reporting about our contact. I guess it was because there was nothing else to report, and I guess Kimi got upset to have all this in the press. But I always stuck to my word – and when it was public I was fair and courteous. Yes we were flattered to be contacted but I didn't say anything else. Now, I think it is clear for me, and clear for him, and this is the end of the discussion."
Boullier admitted that he had been a little surprised about the aggressive tone of Raikkonen's comments against Renault, and said that the whole saga had actually been difficult for him, too.
"You cannot be disappointed in his comment, but I do not understand why he would be aggressive and accuse us of something. I would never chase the media to explain them something like this – we were just replying to the questions. Even for us it was pulling us into a bit of trouble because it was constantly back on the table."
Boullier said it would have more unfair for Renault to have had entered lengthy negotiations with Raikkonen only to then bring talks to an end if they had chosen to keep Petrov.
"I have been very clear and very fair with everybody," he said. "I would not get into deep discussions with anyone, because that would be unfair for them if we took the decision that we were ready to keep Vitaly.
"The idea was we are interested in talking, and if we believe Vitaly cannot do it, we will call you back and we will discuss it. But why discuss it before? You can play with the media, you can play with pressure, but that is not the game here."