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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
“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.
“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.”