Renault confirm full factory return to F1
After six months of negotiations, which were very nearly derailed at the last minute during wrangling with Formula 1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, Renault have finally confirmed their buyout of the troubled Lotus team. The terms of the deal were being finalised as this issue of F1 Racing went to press.
“Renault had two options: to come back at 100 per cent, or to leave,” said Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn. “I have decided that Renault will be in F1, starting in 2016. The details supplied by F1’s main stakeholders gave us the confidence to accept this new challenge. Our ambition is to win – even if it will take some time.”
Ghosn is known both for his ruthless pragmatism and his lack of sentiment for F1. So what led him to decide to return? When he sold the team in 2010, Ghosn believed that remaining in F1 as an engine supplier would provide a useful profit centre.
What actually happened was that of the four teams supplied by Renault, two (Caterham and Lotus) could not afford to pay for the engines, while a third (Red Bull) had an engine-naming deal with Infiniti, now part of the Renault group following a merger with Nissan, so in effect Renault were paying themselves. The shortfall came from Renault’s marketing budget. Mercedes, meanwhile, acquired a team, became a constructor, and therefore raked in a share of F1’s commercial revenues.
Renault tacitly admitted as much: “As a full team, Renault will take maximum benefit from its victories. Payback as an engine supplier proved to be limited. The return on the investment necessitated by the new engine regulations and the return in terms of image were low.”
It is understood that the final hurdle, cleared during the Abu Dhabi weekend, was the matter of Renault’s share of F1’s commercial revenues and their entitlement to historic payments. Renault are believed to have committed to F1 for nine years – but with much work to do on the engine side, and a team that has suffered considerable brain drain over the past two years, can they achieve their aim of winning again?
‘Team Enstone’ comes back under Renault ownership once again in what is believed to be a nine-year commitment to the sport
Vitaly Petrov in the Renault R30 in 2010 – Renault’s last season in F1 as a works team