Analysis: Why Renault needed to break free from Red Bull handcuffs

Renault needed to move on from the constraints of its Red Bull relationship and return to works team status if it was going to win championships under the current rules, claims its F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul.

The French car manufacturer's takeover of the Lotus team to resurrect a works outfit was completed early this week, and big changes at the outfit are expected to be announced early next year.

Speaking for the first time since the completion of the deal, Abiteboul said that, while having a works team was driven by a desire for better marketing, there were also significant technical reasons why such a move was necessary.

"With modern regulations in my opinion it is very difficult to be a successful engine supplier if you are not in the capacity to control the full package," he told Motorsport.com.

"You need to have a much more holistic approach to the car in general – both looking at the car as a system and in terms of resource allocation of where do I put my money?"

Red Bull frustrations

Abiteboul claims that Renault's partnership with Red Bull hit an issue when it came to dictating where money should be spent.

He said: "Clearly the frustration when you are in a customer supplier model with anyone, but in particular with Red Bull, is that the Red Bull was continuously investing a fortune in the chassis.

"This was at the time when the regulations were dictating to invest much more massively in engine technology in order to continue to derive performance and sporting results. That was a big frustration.

"We have been trying to move the Renault-Red Bull model relationship from a customer-supplier model to something completely different.

"When I came back to Renault that was the first thing we did, because it was obvious to me the model was going nowhere.

"It is not Red Bull's fault, it is a result of the set of regulations we are in. We tried with Red Bull [but it failed]: therefore we had no choice, but to explore options, which was to get out completely or come back with a complete team which would allow us to put in place the holistic approach we were not able to implement with Red Bull."

Double budget

Abiteboul expects that there will be significant organisational changes made at Lotus over the winter, and the ability to devote more of a dramatically increased budget to engine development should help it progress its power unit.

"There will be a number of things that will be changing," explained Abiteboul. "The first thing that will be changing is that we will have the luxury of having much more manoeuvrability in the budget. We have more than two times the overall budget, but not quite three times.

"Although we also have to deal with the chassis side now, clearly now we have the capacity to adjust what we want to put on the engine, and obviously next year there will be more financial resources on the engine.

"There are also a number of things that we will be announcing in the event that we will be holding in the early part of 2016, but you can expect to see quite a lot of changes to what can be changed in an organisation.

"For example, a new role will be created to bridge what we do on the chassis side and the engine side in a better way."

This role is expected to be taken by former Mercedes technical director Bob Bell, who quit his consultancy role with Manor earlier this year to make a return to Return. Abiteboul declined to confirm if that was the case or not.

He did add, however, that Renault having a works team also allowed the organisation to think much more longer term.

"The one thing that is an obvious and straightforward consequence of what we have decided is that for the first time, we have got a long term plan in F1," he said.

"That will give us the opportunity to revisit a number of practices that we had in Renault on the engine side, which for us the payback was not going to come in in one or two years.

"For the first time, we have a scale of time that is long enough to reconsider the things that we are doing but not completely convinced that we are doing them in the right way."

Timing right

Although Renault has bought back the very team it sold six years ago, Abiteboul says it would be wrong to think its purchase was because it went down the wrong path after 2009.

When asked why the manufacturer had bought Lotus back, he said: "I will quote Bernie, who is very often quoting Colin Chapman, and I think those guys are saying very frequently, 'circumstances change'. And that is exactly what happened.

"Circumstances changed between six years ago and today. A number of things have changed.

"F1 has changed, the regulations have changed, Renault has changed. The world economy has changed and also our experience has changed and evolved and our view and perspective of the sport has evolved."

He added: "We have been so sustainable and so loyal to the sport, much more than a lot of people would think.

"One of the weaknesses of Renault in the sport is that if you were to ask people how long Renault has been involved in the sport, I'm pretty sure not many would answer we have been in for more or less 40 years.

"So clearly we need to do a better job in marketing what we do in the sport. But one thing for sure is we are loyal and that is thanks to our capacity to adapt what we do in the sport to the circumstances.

"So it is a new chapter and everyone is very excited, but it is nothing new. It is not the first time we are adapting what we do to the sport and I am pretty sure in the next 40 years there will be many more chapters written by new people to come."

 

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Teams Red Bull Racing , Renault F1 Team
Article type Analysis