Ending all speculation about its exit from Formula 1 and its doubted future, Renault has announced that it will return to Formula 1 as a team in 2016. The French manufacturer was in talks with Lotus F1 Team and was considering its future in Formula 1, after which they signed the principal contract to acquire Lotus F1 Team on December 3, 2015.
At the Grand Prix weekend Cyril Abiteboul had mentioned that there would be an announcement in the next week about Renault’s future in F1. Chairman and CEO of Renault Carlos Ghosn said Renault had two options either to exit completely or to return at 100 per cent as a team.
“After a detailed study, I have decided that Renault will be in Formula 1, starting 2016. The final details supplied by the sport’s main stakeholders gave us the confidence to accept this new challenge. Our ambition is to win – even if it will take some time”, Carlos Ghosn noted.
According to speculation in the paddock, they were in talks with Lotus and Marussia, however the announcement mentioned that they had signed a Letter of Intent with the Enstone-based team earlier in September this year and were evaluating the possibilities of their return to Formula 1 as a full works team.
The last time Renault exited the sport is remembered for its bitter saga with the crash-gate controversy of the Nelson Piquet Jr crash at the Singapore Grand Prix 2008. The incident was orchestrated to assist Fernando Alonso, to win the race by bringing out the safety car. Following that incident, Renault had raced as a team for the last time in the 2009 season, after which they remained an engine supplier in the sport.
The announcement said that Renault benefits more from victories as a team, and that as an engine supplier the paybacks or profits were limited. By the 2015 season, they were down to supplying only four cars – two Red Bulls and two of Toro Rosso.
Renault will return to Formula 1 with Lotus F1 after they had sold it to Genii Capital in 2010, and together they had won two titles in 2005 and 2006 with Fernando Alonso. The French manufacturer’s involvement in the sport dates back to 1977, they have participated in more than 600 GPs with 168 wins, 12 Constructors’ titles and 11 Drivers’ titles.
Lotus’ financial woes were seen at the Abu Dhabi GP, when they failed to pay bills to the circuit officials, and Bernie Ecclestone had to step in to resolve the issue. Throughout the 2015 season, the financial shortfalls of the Enstone-based team have been no secret, and Renault’s interest in repurchasing the team surfaced in September, after they signed the Letter of Intent.
The team’s driver line-up will have Pastor Maldonado and Jolyon Palmer, who replaces the Haas-bound Romain Grosjean. After this announcement, the much awaited announcement is that of Red Bull Racing which has signed its deal for their 2016 manufacturer and is due to announce it, while their sister team Toro Rosso have announced Ferrari as their 2016 engine supplier, who will provide them with 2015-spec power units.
Currently Renault’s terms with the Enstone-based outfit haven’t been finalised and they are in the procedure of outlining the acquisition terms in the limited, but they have mentioned that they will make their next announcement with details in January ahead of the 2016 championship which kick-starts in March.