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Rumours have been bounded about the future of Redbull racings engine supplier Renault as to whether or not they will continue in the sport at the end of the current campaign.
Since the switch to the current V6 Hybrid power units, Renault have failed to deliver a competitive power unit to rival that of the current champions Mercedes. This failure has lead to an all out war of words between both parties.
Following months of discussion about as to their plans in F1, it had been looking increasingly likely that Renault would edge towards buying its own outfit. Torro Rosso was mentioned as a possible option, but many believe Lotus to be the preferred choice.
Renault ambassador Alain Prost has however reiterated that the French manufacturer could still pull out of Formula one:
“Today, everything remains possible, For sure, we’re looking at all the solutions… although there are probably just two! Or three, if you consider leaving as an option.“
“But I don’t think it’s in Renault’s genes and interest [to leave]… There still is a history, a tradition. History is very important to Renault in motorsport, and it has always been a very innovative company. That’s the assessment of the situation, now they have to look at the best options in the coming weeks.”
If this were to happen, Formula one stands to lose one of the sport’s most successful and long standing engine manufacturer. Renault have participated in all but 5 seasons of F1 dating back to 1977.
But there maybe an olive branch for the embattled manufacturer as there are plans to change their status from an engine manufacturer to that of a ‘historic team’, should they decide to once again become a full works team. Ferrari are currently the only historic team within the sport. It has participated in every season of the Formula 1 world championship since its 1950.
This change in status brings with it significant financial incentives. If the proposed plans to purchase Lotus were to go ahead, this would see them join the other top five teams, Mercedes, Redbull, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams in receiving additional payments from Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM company, which distributes 65% of the revenues to the qualifying teams. 15% of that goes to the top 5 manufacturers in the form of premium payments for committing to stay within the sport until 2020 when the current concord agreement expires.
Bernie Ecclestone was recently asked whether or not the French manufacturer would be considered a historic team, he replied:
“Yes. If they take over Lotus and do exactly what Mercedes and Red Bull did, that would be it, so yeah, sure.
“They [Renault] have talked about perhaps taking over Lotus, so there is a way in for them, and we’d love to have them on board.”
Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul has welcomed this news, though with a bit of skepticism:
“We know the sport well enough – we’ve been a part of it for 38 years – that without proper funding in place there is no story, no performance.
“One thing we need to be mindful of, and is part of the evaluation we are doing – which is a constant evaluation – is to make sure there is sufficient financial resources in place to satisfy the expectations at the top level.
“We have absolutely no intention of participating, like we are doing now, of making up the numbers on the grid. Given the legacy we have in the sport, any project of Renault in Formula 1, would have to be a top-performing one.”
“Any financial recognition of the value of Renault in Formula 1, not just as an engine supplier but more specifically as a team, is clearly going to assist. It’s not just money which is a crucial element in Formula 1, because there are always other issues to deal with, but certainly money is necessary. So this type of comment from Bernie is obviously a positive one.”
There are however still obstacles in the way of any such move, as a unanimous vote from all the teams will be required, which also includes both Redbull and Torro Rosso who receives their engines from Renault. Should this be achieved, Redbull and Torro Rosso could find themselves without an engine supplier and could possibly block any such move if they were not able to attract a new supplier before then.
Ecclestone, however, has suggested otherwise: “If they [Renault] do what they have to do to be in line with those people I don’t think we would need anybody to agree. I think we could deal with it easily enough.“