Renault's F1 future now safer, says Abiteboul
Renault Formula 1 team principal Cyril Abiteboul says the French car manufacturer's position in the sport is looking safer now the company's future management structure has been sorted.
The turmoil at the company caused by the arrest of former Renault-Nissan alliance Carlos Ghosn last year prompted a major review of its operations.
Interim CEO Clotilde Delbos said last October that it would question all its activities as it mapped out a plan for the future – and that included its F1 programme.
But, despite announcing this week the first company wide losses for a decade that will prompt widespread cost-cutting measures, Abiteboul said all the indications were that the F1 team was safe ahead of the arrival of new CEO Luca de Meo later this year.
Asked by Motorsport.com earlier this week about the latest developments on the future of the F1 team, Abiteboul said: “On Renault, I guess the main development is the fact that we have a confirmation of the new governance structure finally.
"It's been a number of evolutions, like in F1. But now in Luca de Meo we have a clear CEO. He will not join before July, but at least we have a date and a name.
“In addition to that, the single most important piece of information, whether you got it or not, is the fact that Clotilde Delbon current acting CEO will remain as deputy CEO when de Meo arrives. That’s very important.
"It means there will be a continuity of the governance, continuity also of the decisions, which means that everything that we're discussing today with Mrs Delbos will be valid even when de Meo arrives.”
While Abiteboul concedes that Renault’s F1 programme is not cheap, he believes that Delbos is aware of the wider marketing benefits of being involved in grand prix racing – and that the change in finances for F1 from 2021 will be very good.
“Delbos is also a CFO of the company," he said. "She's also very naturally driven by figures. To look at F1 from a financial perspective it's a cost, but it's also an asset. And it's an investment.
“Any way you look, it is pointing in the right direction. Audience exposure or market share [is going up]. But also costs, with a prize fund that will be better, a budget cap that will be better, and engine regulations that stay stable.
“Anywhere you look the figures are healthy and going in the right direction. So I’ve every reason to believe that, in principle, we are in it for the long-term.”
Alain Prost, who is a non-executive director of Renault, admitted he had ‘concern’ last year about the company’s commitment to F1, but he sees more positive signs now.
“It is always a concern for sure, especially being a big constructor and also we cannot hide all the problems with the president who left, and the organisation changed completely,” said the four-time F1 champion.
“We had new people. But in a way, it's also very good to have. We have different meetings scheduled now, we have a new president of Renault coming in July, and since we really have a lot of new people, and they are all very concerned on one side and very motivated on the other side about F1.”
He added: “Still with a big constructor like Renault, you cannot be too far [off]. Where we were last year was not acceptable, that is for sure. You cannot stay in this position, so we had to show that we can improve.”
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