Renault is one of the few volume auto manufacturers whose core business strategies have revolved around Formula One for decades in one form or the other. Ferrari and McLaren have bloomed through the roots of our sport whilst many automotive giants came and went in a blur since they waited for opportunities to enter the sport rather than creating one for their own.
Most recently, the confirmation of only 11 teams, including the new entrant Haas F1 Team, on the grid for 2016 proved the new turbo V6 formula hasn’t enticed big-spending conglomerates with mooted companies like Volkswagen or Audi or Toyota sticking to comparatively less expensive way of motorsport in rallying and endurance racing.
Since decided to sell the majority of their works team’s shares to Genii capital in 2010 that eventually came in to be Lotus Renault GP the following year, the French marque contended to focus solely on being the engine supplier.
The dominant Red Bull chassis and the superior Renault RS27 V8 engines ruled the competition with four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships between 2010 and 2013.
But Red Bull have been quick to point the blame on Renault since the V6 incarnation for the dire performances in the last year and half and criticisms were bucketed at the French outfit in a constant manner thus deteriorating the relationship between them.
Despite having such rich heritage in the sport, Renault are delving deep regarding their future plans currently. What is known, however, is that they are in accordance with honouring the engine supply contract for Red Bull and Toro Rosso until the end of 2016 with other options being considered are whether to continue the role as an engine supplier or taking up a majority stake in a team or quit the entire operation in the top flight.
Speculations arouse over Spa weekend suggested Red Bull have terminated deal with Renault a year in advance so as to pursue after Mercedes or Ferrari as soon as next year. Albeit declining such claims, Red Bull are waiting for a decision to be made that will leave them no choice but to go with either Mercedes or Ferrari. Team Principal Christian Horner said, “We have an agreement until 2016 and it’s important to understand what Renault’s plans are. Then we can react accordingly.”
The most likely scenario of Renault making a comeback to the sharp end of the field would be to takeover a midfield team and build up a works squad from there. Ironically the Enstone-based Lotus team, beset with financial struggles this year, have been touted as the ideal candidate for Renault to resurrect their glory days.
However, having not made up their mind yet the French carmaker have held parallel talks with other midfield teams and at the Belgian GP Renault’s ambassador and consultant Alain Prost convened with Force India’s Team Principal Vijay Mallya.
The Indian businessman acknowledged after the meeting: “We didn’t talk about engine supply at all.” And that Renault considers Force India as one of their options for a potential takeover to become a constructor and stressed the talks are only at the preliminary stage.
Regarding Renault’s future, the four-time champion Alain Prost addressed “We are completing the process of analysing the situation” and added “The decision is a little delayed but it will be taken in September,”
Lotus’ increasing financial issues hit a new low when bailiffs arrived to impound the team’s assets including the two Formula One cars following their first podium finish since Austin 2013 at Spa. The team are embroiled in a legal dispute with former reserve driver Charles Pic who reportedly demands up to 750,000 Euros for allegedly not giving him enough seat time as guaranteed in his contract last year.
After an unexpected third-place for Romain Grosjean at the Belgian GP, Lotus trackside operations director Alan Permane admitted: “This is the worst season we’ve had financially.
“We’ve scrimped and scraped for parts and to get the cars on the track is a massive effort each week. So to be able to stick it on the podium is unbelievable.”
The podium was a timely reminder of what they can accomplish provided the right equipment and investment. Amidst all the uncertainty surrounding the charismatic team’s mere existence beyond 2015, Renault’s interest in other teams might have sent them alarming message to what they expect out of the potential deal. Possibilities are this could leave them until they enter administration and buyout the shares rather than risking to pay investors’ debts by making a move now. (Suren M)