Renault hints at Red Bull divorce – but not until 2017

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Renault has dropped a firm hint that its long-term plans are not in line with Red Bull's any more, but says it intends to honour its contract with the Milton Keynes-based team for next year.

The French car manufacturer has been evaluating a new approach to Formula 1 after believing that it was not maximising the marketing benefits of its works relationship with Red Bull.

And its impetus for change has only grown on the back of a disappointing first half of the campaign and some intense criticism from Red Bull about its lack of progress.

That reached a peak at the Austrian Grand Prix when Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz said Renault had destroyed his company's enjoyment and motivation in F1.

Future plans still open

Renault is edging closer a move to buy the Lotus team which, if it happens, will result in the Enstone-based outfit being rebranded for 2017.

But Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul has made clear that no decision has been made yet.

“The status is unfortunately not very sexy to hear,” he told Motorsport.com about the results of its future evaulation project. “It is that we continue to work and look at options.

“Our CEO Carlos Ghosn was fairly clear at the Formula E [race in London] that in F1 we are not pleased with what we have now, both from a performance perspective but also from a marketing perspective. So we continue to look at options.”

However, Abiteboul is adamant on one thing: that what is being discussed longer term will not impact on the current contracts it has with Red Bull or Toro Rosso for next year.

This comes despite mounting suggestions that Red Bull chiefs are trying to see if there is a way it can escape the final year of its contract with Renault – especially if a tie-up with Lotus affects its status as its 'works' team.

“We have binding contracts until the end of 2016, that is the starting point. We are making plans to honour those contracts,” he said.

“The solutions that we are developing are more for 2017 than 2016, but again if 2016 has to be a transition year to 2017 then we will have to develop something. We continue to work. But we are much more advanced in our desire to continue to be in F1.”

Different path to Red Bull

Abiteboul says that Renault's priority is now doing what is best for its long term future – which has put it in direct conflict with Red Bull's ambitions to get back to the front as soon as possible.

“I don't think we should jeopardise 2017 in order to rush something for 2016,” he said. “There is no rush. It is a long term game.

“But that [approach] is different to brands like Red Bull who have been in the sport for just a couple of years now, and who are more sponsors of the sport rather than constructors in the sport.

“Maybe that [long term focus] is also what is unsatisfying to Red Bull, who like to have success yesterday.

“I understand that, but on our side we don't look at it that way. And maybe that is one of the reasons why it is difficult to align [our targets] at this point of time with Red Bull. But we are thinking long term.”

F1 plans must change

Although a withdrawal from grand prix racing still cannot be completely ruled out, Abiteboul has said that Renault's chiefs agree that it cannot continue with the same approach to F1 it has right now.

He says that the way its partnership with Red Bull works is no longer justifiable: because it does not gain enough from success and it is hurt too much when things go wrong.

“What you need to make sure is that the gains are bigger than the risks and the negativity associated with that,” he said.

“That is the reason why we need to change what we are doing now, because right now the balance between the gain and the loss, financial but also reputational, is not good enough. This is what we need to reference.

“Anything we do in the future in F1 will be with much more control. In my opinion, the difficulty of the decision we have to make is to balance exactly a lot of factors.

“We cannot work in isolation, we need to work in partnerships, but also be in control. This is the control and risk sharing that must be measured, apportioned and decided.”

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Series Formula 1
Teams Red Bull Racing
Article type Breaking news