Renault to stay in Formula One
The French Renault car company today announced during a press conference in Paris they have decided to stay in Formula One, but have sold a 75 percent stake to the Luxembourg Genii Capital Investment company led by Luxembourg businessman Gerard Lopez. The Renault team will in 2010 still be operating under the name Renault and will also retain its corporate identity, and the sister company in Viry-Ch?tillon, which will remain a 100 percent Renault company and is not included in this deal, will supply the engines for both the Renault and Red Bull Racing teams.
What the future of the team will be after 2010 was not revealed, but Renault has signed the 2009 Concorde Agreement and is therefore committed to Formula One until the end of 2012. It is also believed that Renault opted for selling 75 percent of its Formula One activities because it is cheaper than to quit the sport and pay millions to the FIA, FOM and others for breaching their contracts.
A similar arrangement was made when Honda decided to quit the sport, and instead of selling the team, they opted for the Ross Brawn buy-out. Renault now only pays 25 percent of the team's budget, and they will keep their name in Formula One, and that also still keeps the door open for a full return if the economic climate and car sales would improve.
Although the names of possible buyers were kept secret, Genii has in fact beaten another prospective buyer, the Prodrive motor racing team led by Briton David Richards. Renault President Carlos Goshn has approved the deal himself and Bernard Rey, Renault F1 Team President, today said: "I am delighted to welcome Genii Capital as our new strategic partner as I am sure that their enthusiasm and business expertise will create a new dynamic for the team, the staff, and our partners."
Rey further stated: "Indeed, in making such a decision, Renault not only demonstrates its commitment to its fans across the world, its employees in Enstone and in Viry, and the FIA, FOA and FOTA but it also believes in the positive impact of promoting relevant technologies in synergy with its product plan. With the ongoing evolutions of the Formula One regulations, Renault will be able to entertain its fans, while promoting a leaner and sounder Championship. We will show Renault's skill when it comes to developing high-performance, fuel-efficient cars."
It is understood that both Renault and Genii will together operate the Formula One team, the Enstone facility located in Great Britain will remain the base of the Formula One team, but whether the buy-out will have consequences for the staff and personnel is at this moment unknown. At this time Bob Bell (team principal), Steve Nielsen (team manager), James Allison (technical director) und Tim Densham (chief designer) are managing the race team, but it is possible Gerard Lopez will bring in some new people to manage the team in 2010.
Renault had contracted Pole and ex-BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica for the 2010 season to replace their star-driver double World Champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso, but it remains to be seen whether he really will race for Renault next year. During the young drivers test days at Valencia two weeks ago, Renault hastily added Dutch born Chinese driver Ho-pin Tung to their testing programme. Lopez's company Genii also has a stake in the management company Gravity, and that company manages the interests of Ho-pin Tung, further fuelling the rumors Tung could land a race seat at the new Renault team.
The future of the Renault Formula One team had been in doubt for the last five months and the Renault board of directors has held several emergency meetings to discuss the future of the team. Renault has had its worst season in Formula One of the last decade, which resulted in a eight place overall in the Constructors Championship with only 26 points, all scored by Alonso, while Nelson Piquet Jr. and replacement driver Romain Grossjean did not score one single point.
To add to their problems, they were involved in the Crash-gate scandal, where the team allegedly asked second driver Nelson Piquet to crash his car during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, to help his team mate Alonso to take the victory. The Renault team itself was handed a two year suspended race ban by the FIA's WMSC (World Motor Sport Counsel) and will therefore have to be very careful not to make similar 'mistakes' which could very well lead to a permanent ban.
Another result of the affair was that team principal flamboyant Italian Flavio Briatore was banned from Formula One for life, and engineer Briton Pat Symonds was banned for five years from the sport. Both Briatore and Symonds have contested the FIA decision in French court, but as far as Renault is concerned, they will not come back to the Renault Formula One team, even if the ban would be overturned by the French court.
Renault also lost two major sponsors this year, the Dutch Bank and Insurance company ING had at the start of the season revealed they would stop their Formula One activities due to the global economic recession, and when Renault pleaded guilty in the Crash-gate affair, they immediately withdrew from Formula One. Another sponsor was lost when Alsonso announced he would be racing for Ferrari next season.
So Renault still has a lot of work to do in 2010, they need more sponsors, they need to contract two drivers and have to make the team stronger to score more points next season, but after the demise of Honda, BMW and Toyota earlier this year, it is good to see they will stay in Formula One next year.