The sto­ries F1’s big­wigs would rather you didn’t know…


Pic­ture a mar­riage en­tered into be­tween a French-english cou­ple in 2000, elect­ing to go by the Gal­lic fam­ily name for his­toric rea­sons. Fur­ther imag­ine the for­mer to be the mon­sieur, with the Bri­ton be­ing the fe­male part­ner. Slightly con­vo­luted, per­haps, but all be­comes clear as mat­ters un­ravel.

De­spite the ob­vi­ous cul­tural chal­lenges, their union is gen­er­ally happy and fruit­ful, with two chil­dren born a year apart, in 2005 then 2006, the re­sult. Yet, af­ter un­savoury noc­tur­nal ac­tiv­i­ties in an Asian cap­i­tal, the mar­riage fal­ters. Both go their own ways amid talk of huge set­tle­ments.

How­ever, for the sake of the kids they re­main en­meshed, al­though the lady soon falls into the arms of bour­geois Lux­em­bourg en­trepreneurs, while mon­sieur en­ters into a long-term-re­la­tion­ship with a wealthy, yet reclusive Aus­trian with lofty am­bi­tions.

Al­though said long-term-re­la­tion­ship de­liv­ers four (petu­lant) off­spring, the re­la­tion­ship de­te­ri­o­rates into ac­ri­mo­nious slang­ing matches, amid ac­cu­sa­tions of im­po­tence and mu­tual lack of re­spect. The Aus­trian pub­licly flirts with Ger­man, Ital­ian and Ja­panese would-be paramours, be­fore opt­ing for fa­mil­iar­ity, al­beit in what is best 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 fi­nan­cial is­sues. In the process var­i­ous as­sets are for­feit, while fleet­ing in­fi­delity – 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 fi­nan­cial straits. This on-off courtship is con­ducted in full pub­lic eye over many months, with their re­spec­tive fam­i­lies not overly en­am­oured by 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

The proof of Re­nault CEO Car­los Ghosn’s com­mit­ment will be the num­ber of GPS he at­tends 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 £200m 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 first 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 ‘profit-’ cen­tre. Clearly he failed, but such a mind­set is dif­fi­cult 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…

“In any mar­riage, suc­cess de­mands huge com­mit­ment from both par­ties”

Se­cond time lucky for Re­nault-en­stone?

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