After many months of speculation, last Thursday Renault announced that they would be returning as a works team for the 2016 Formula 1 season, taking over the struggling Lotus team that bought them out at the end of 2010, to mixed success.
However they do return under a cloud, in the midst of Lotus’ failure to pay HM Revenue and Customs’ £2.7 million bill, and a conflict with Red Bull over their sub par engine performance, that made Dietrich Mateschitz threaten to take the Red Bull brand out of Formula 1 for good.
Whether this will weaken the bond between the two parties even further remains to be seen, as the French company will more than likely give Red Bull a B-Spec engine, opting for the main, beefy (or not) engine in the works cars.
Putting two and two together, the omens don’t look good for Renault – looking to recapture the form they found in the mid 2000’s, under the leadership of Flavio Briatore and with the talent of a younger Fernando Alonso (above, Monaco 2006), winning back to back world titles, releasing Ferrari and Michael Schumacher’s white knuckle grip on the sport, to the relief of some.
On the subject of the flamboyant Italian Briatore, he told Motorsport.com that Renault would need a “total overhaul” to find success in the sport and prevent a difficult first year back – putting before confirmed drivers, Pastor Maldonado and 2014 GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer under severe threat and in for a long and tense winter. Certainly, with the money the French company holds, they will more than likely not need Maldonado’s wealth of PDVSA backed oil money to stay afloat – a complete contrast to Lotus and the GENII capital investment company – the former main shareholder.
With the likes of the recently released Kevin Magnussen, WEC driver and son of Alain, Nicolas Prost, reigning GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne, former Toro Rosso driver Jean Eric-Vergne, GP2 driver Fabio Leimer and DTM champion and Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein all sniffing around for seats, it might not be the best time to place your bets just yet.
Briatore also criticised Reanult’s preference for a ‘three year plan’, saying that they “need success sooner…three years is a lot of time”. However, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn remained confident in his team’s ability to cut it at the sharp end, explaining that all angles had been covered, the task being made easier and more necessary due to that feud with Red Bull that started in early July.
Due to the end of the second Renault works era in the sport in 2010, the main staff are completely different to the ones that last turned out the lights in Viry-Chatillon. Rumours of former managing director Bob Bell returning after a double world championship winning stint as technical director at Mercedes are growing, and Frederic Vasseur – boss of GP2 outfit ART Grand Prix looks set to be confirmed as team principal, with former Lotus co-owner Gerard Lopez’s position unknown, for the time being – but one suspects he will be leaving the team for good.
The third album looks like it’s going to be harder than the first two.
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