The momentum is building for Renault’s takeover of the Lotus F1 team, almost to the point of inevitability. Both Matthew Carter (CEO Lotus) and Cyril Abiteboul (Renault F1) have indicated on completion of the transaction, the Lotus name will be ditched.
Abiteboul said yesterday, “it will be for 2016. There is no reason to wait. We know in terms of operation and performance that 2016, if we go for it, it will be a transition year”. It appears expectations of immediate success have been set fairly low for the new Renault ‘works’ team amongst the auto manufacturer’s hierarchy.
Since Renault joined Formula One, their engines have won more GP’s than any other manufacturer and they sit third in the all-time table of wins by an F1 engine manufacturer.
- Ferrari 225
- Ford/Cosworth 175
- Renault 168
- Mercedes 130
- Honda 72
Mercedes would take almost two entire seasons of utter dominance to equal Renault’s record and given last nights revelation, Cosworth are unlikely to improve their tally anytime soon. With regard to the FIA and Jean Todt’s offer to tender for the new engine specification for 2017, Cosworth’s Kevin Kalkhoven stated, “We took a look at it and looked at who the potential customers would be and the answer is essentially Red Bull, as they don’t have a long-term engine contract.
“Then we looked at the economics of developing an engine from scratch, which is what we would have to do. The economics of it just don’t work out. It would cost roughly £20m to develop from scratch, with everything else that goes with it. You’ve also got to pay for the on-track support, as well.”
“So we have politely declined the opportunity to lose money!” Of course Adam Parr’s connection with Cosworth may also have had some effect on this decision.
Of greater interest to techie minded F1 fans, Kalkhoven admits he has no idea how the FIA will ensure their new engine will be able to be closely matched in performance with the current V6 Turbo Hybrid. “How they would manage to balance the performance of two sets of engines is completely baffling.”
Renault are putting their metaphorical balls on the F1 line by taking responsibility for both power unit and car, given the rather poor showing of their V6 Turbo hybrid over the past two years. However, it has become apparent that the team will not simply be called Renault as in days of yore.
Teams register their names with the FIA and the official designation can contain up to three elements. Title sponsor, team name and engine partner. In 2005 and 2006 when the French manufacturer topped both the constructor and driver F1 championships, the team was named Mild Seven Renault F1. Here Renault was both team and engine partner name.
The intriguing question is what will Renault the ‘works’ team be called in 2016? Renault believe their engines will return to winning ways in the not too distant future, so given their historic F1 engine achievements, it would be probable that the engine element of the team will be branded Renault.
Cyril Abiteboul appeared to confirm this when he said, despite the possible lack of instant success, “there is no reason to wait in also building the marketing story, because even if the results on track are not great, there is a long old story and we cannot wait to tell that story.”
However, the team name may be something other than Renault given Abiteboul’s subsequent revealtion. “We have a strategy in terms of naming, and we know why we would be entering F1 and to promote which brand. Renault is a halo brand but there are other brands associated to that. But I will not say anything in relation to that because that will be part of the announcement”.
Renault and Nissan are a joint auto manufacturer venture and so it is likely new funding could be sourced from Nissan for the F1 team project. That said, Infiniti – the luxury Nissan brand equivalent to Toyota’s Lexus – is probably committed for another year as title sponsor of the Red Bull team, should Milton Keynes resolve their current lack of F1 engine crisis.
This leads to the distinct possibility, the Lotus new team name could be Nissan for 2016, and in 2017 when the Infiniti deal lapses with Red Bull, the Enstone team’s full registered name may become Infiniti Nissan Renault. That said, the branding of the Renault Nissan auto manufacturer joint venture sees the two partner’s names reversed as Renault Nissan
Whilst this deal would access additional funding across the Renault Nissan group’s for the Formula One project, it still does not explain the age-old complaint from Renault. During their years of dominance and success as engine partners for Red Bull Racing, Renault repeatedly said that as merely the engine partner they were marginalised in marketing stakes.
How Renault tackle this problem and get proper marketing bang for their F1 investment buck will be fascinating to see following the imminent announcement expected around the time of the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.