Renault ‘must buy a works team’, says Prost
Following the Jerez test, TJ13 published an article examining the reasons for Renault’s problems in producing their new F1 engine. The conclusion was that Ferrari and Mercedes had designed their engines and chassis in tandem with a sympathetic view to each other’s requirements.
Having sold their works team to Genii, Renault have chosen in recent years to operate in a more commercially beneficial manner by working closely with Red Bull without the expense of building a chassis and running a race team.
TJ13 repeatedly reported during October and November (DN&C) during the ‘Quantum’/Lotus debacle that serious talks were taking place between Renault and Lotus over the return of Enstone to full Renault F1 works team status.
The result was that the interference by Mansoor Ijaz eventually scuppered any possibility of a deal. The already cautious French car manufacturer backed off when Genii pressed them to consider a joint ownership solution with Ijaz in an effort to extract maximum value from the sale of the team.
Behind the scenes Alain Prost, now the brand ambassador for Renault and former driver for their original F1 works team, was pressing Renault hard to buy Lotus.
Renault had been bemoaning for years the lack of exposure they got for being ‘merely the supplier of engines’ to Red Bull, whereas Red Bull Racing’s title sponsor Infiniti claim to have been the first brand to gain $1bn of marketing worth from F1 exposure.
Buying back their works team would offer Renault the opportunity for better exposure, even if it merely emphasised the Renault brand and Red Bull were again winning. Then again, Enstone had delivered a highly competitive chassis in 2013 and with full works status who knows what could have been achieved.
The problem of course was cost. Firstly Renault would have to shell out between $100-150m to buy Lotus and secondly they would then not receive the 20m euro’s a year from the team for engine supply as they do now.
The final consideration would be the loss of the premium Red Bull pay for the privilege of being treated as the current ‘works team’ for priority and input into developments. The commercials were not appealing, so Renault retrenched back into its engine supply only status of recent times.
Simon Lazenby and Johnny Herbert of SKY cornered Alain Prost in the dying seconds of their post race programme for a chat, where the Frenchman revealed the following.
Asked if he could foresee Renault’s current problems before the start of this year, the Frenchman replied: “In a way, yes. You cannot judge exactly the level, but obviously Mercedes has done a very good job and they really push hard and make a lot of effort, a lot of investment and it’s not the same when you are a partner and talking about more commercial issues”.
The incisive duo missed the opportunity to press Prost to explain himself more clearly, despite the fact he had already compared Mercedes with Renault and drawn the distinct difference between the commercial complications of working with partners and having your own works team.
Prost volunteered, “I could have [some influence] a little bit. I said a lot of things last year already about what would happen or what could happen and this year I’m obviously not very happy, but I’m not in charge of any project or management,”
In other words, Alain predicted the difficulties Renault are suffering this year. When asked for a solution, Prost continued in a somewhat coded manner, “You need to analyse and change the situation in terms of organisation and the way you organise yourself. We have four teams but maybe [Renault need to] do something a little bit different. I know what to do, it would be the best, I don’t know if they are going to make it [the changes].”
So Renault should do something different other than have 4 customer teams… Mmm. Buy a works team? Prost asserts this “would be the best [solution]”, but is unsure whether Renault will tread this path.
The problem is cash strapped Lotus have suffered a brain drain from failing to pay staff on time and James Allison has left for Ferrari.
On the flip side, the price Genii could extract for the current sad state of an outfit from Enstone has most likely collapsed.
Should Prost win the day and Renault buy back the Enstone team, Red Bull need to find another engine supplier for quite different reasons than they realise at present.
More Richter scale ructions would be on the F1 horizon if Renault buy Lotus.
Yet the most amusing aspect of this saga was the utter lack of understanding from Lazenby and Herbert as to the gold Prost was delivering, whilst he was desperately trying not to be obvious and so talking in riddles.
It was as though he was a bloody foreigner babbling incoherently in foreign speak… or something 😉