Second time lucky for Renault-Enstone?
described as a marriage of convenience forced by mutual desperation rather than founded upon trust.
No children are born of our lady’s Luxembourg liaison, though both partners experience occasional moments of euphoric, if expensive, joy – until, alas, impotence hits, splitting the couple amid serious nancial issues. In the process various assets are forfeit, while eeting indelity – with a German suitor – blights the relationship.
Through it all, monsieur makes clear his intentions of entering into matrimony again, and sounds out potential partners – Italian, Swiss, and British of Indian extraction – before settling for his erstwhile ex, who is by now in dire nancial straits. This on-off courtship is conducted in full public eye over many months, with their respective families not overly enamoured of the prospects.
Only after guarantees and securities are issued, does the intended re-marriage receive reluctant blessing, and then on the courtroom steps. Numerous caveats shrouded in antenuptial contracts suggest it to be far from a union of equals with monsieur making clear his reluctance to re-engage until a substantial, if deferred, dowry is provided by a godfather…
Even the most charitable marriage counsellor could be forgiven for expressing pessimism about such a union. Yet, in the run up to Christmas, Renault/Lotus announced their intentions under parallel circumstances, with their (re)marriage due to be consummated ‘in the shortest timeframe possible’, in the words of Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn.
In any marriage, success demands huge commitment from both parties. Despite platitudes to the contrary, F1 pays little more than lip service to cost control, with manufacturer budgets hitting close to $400m per annum, after off-setting premium shares of F1’s earnings and blue-chip sponsorship.
And that sum would be on top of capital investment such as much-needed overhauls of plant and facilities. Both the Lotus factory in Enstone and the Renault facility in ViryChâtillon are in need of substantial upgrading, with Enstone having had little in the way of investment since 2010. There is also a question of manpower: Mercedes and Ferrari currently operate their F1 operations on upward of 1,000 heads each. Renault? Around 750.
The rebuilding task is not, however, simply a matter of recruiting the rst 300 technicians from the local Job Centre. Assembling a winning (and cohesive) team takes time, money and effort. Such has been the recent squeeze at Lotus that key positions were left vacant for years on end, with many of the team’s brighter talents having left motorsport for good, so disillusioned had they become.
The question is not whether Renault can invest the requisite four Ms – Manpower, Money, Machines and Management – to halt the downward spiral, but whether the board will commit without guarantees of success, whether in the short, medium or long term. Forget not that in 2009, when Ghosn pulled the plug on Enstone to concentrate on F1 engine supply, he vowed to convert the F1 engine division from a ‘cost-’ to a ‘prot-’ centre. Clearly he failed, but such a mindset is difcult to shift.
The acid test will be whether he is present in Australia, and how many races he subsequently attends. In the past he was seen at just two – Monaco and Brazil – and such visits are an indicator of executive commitment. Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne – F1 attendees both – have led the way, and it surely shows…