Could Renault Return as a Formula One Works Team?


With formula one racing at the moment in a little bit of a crisis, there really are only two F1 teams that are full manufacturers: Mercedes and Ferrari. Both have won world championships in both drivers and constructors competitions, but it might not be too long down the road when another works team could be coming back in the future. And this team is Renault.

The French manufacture began their attempt in the Formula One World Championship in 1977, when they ran their first entry which eventually two years later, won the French Grand Prix in Dijon with Jean-Pierre Jabouille at the wheel. Such great names as Alain Prost and Rene Arnoux drove for the team until the mid-80’s where cutbacks caused the team to finally fold.

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But Renault were not done yet, and decided in the 90’s to return into F1 as an engine supplier, and won world championships for drivers such as Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. This lasted until 2002, when Renault took over the Benetton team and gave world championships to Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006. However, in 2008, the team staged a crash at the Grand Prix of Singapore, with Nelson Piquet Jr. involved in order to let Alonso win the race. He did, and Piquet Jr. being let go the following season mid-way through the 2009 year, made the Brazilian leak the story, barring then manager Flavio Briatore, who was involved, for life in F1, and also suspending Pat Symonds, the technical director, for a few seasons. Symonds, who has now been reinstated, now works at Williams.

The incident in Singapore started the ball falling for Renault, and with sponsors withdrawing from them, the team sold their final shares to Genii Captial, who changed the name to Lotus-Renault in 2011 to Lotus F1, where it is today. Lotus recently changed their engines from Renault to Mercedes.

Renault decided to get into the engine supply chain for the second time, and it is now known as Renaultsportf1, supply engines to formula one teams. But the recent change of engines to hybrids have hurt the French company, after seeing their regular v-6 motors win four consecutive world titles for Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull. Vettel now has left for Ferrari, and Renault only supplies two teams, Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso, both sponsored by Austrian drink company, Red Bull.

But the recent season also has had the car underpowered in comparison to the stronger Mercedes engine and more improved Ferrari one recently, and considering that Renault still has two years on their contract with both current teams, they must improve otherwise Red Bull, which is beginning to have their name more visible on their cars and uniforms, might go somewhere else for an engine supplier.

Renault themselves realize that the engine deal only is costing a lot of money and not quite getting the publicity they need, and with Force India, Sauber, Manor, and yes, even Lotus with very small budgets, the team certainly could have a future with sponsoring a works team again, but for the moment , their focus is still on engines.

“We are happy to be a power unit supplier,”Renaultsportf1 manager Cyril Abiteboul told French radio RMC. “Our priority is to help Red Bull become world champions again. They’re the only team that can reclaim the title in the near future. Renault is going to become more and more aggressive in the field of sports cars. This is a segment where we are quite active and recognized, but maybe not significant enough just yet. By developing and strengthening our position in the world on this market we’ll make our involvement in motor racing and Formula One more pertinent.”

But considering his group only recognizes the engine portion of the team, Abiteboul still has not ruled out a return in the future of Renault as a full works unit.

“Taking over an existing team is not out of the question, but absolutely nothing has been decided either. It must fit within a broader, very long-term plan that has to be paired with a global industrial strategy. F1 is not the only medium on Earth through which our cars can be more relevant. We must think about a global sport strategy that suits Renault best. We’ll keep an eye on everything, including the evolution of the sport and its funding.”
If problems can finally be straightened out in F1, maybe more works units could return where it might not be just Renault, but others as well.