Renault was 'very close' to F1 pull-out - Prost

Alain Prost has revealed that Renault was 'very, very close' to a Formula 1 pull-out last month, before CEO Carlos Ghosn could finally be convinced about the benefits of staying in the sport.

Renault has been evaluating its grand prix plans for several months now but, despite having been pushing for a deal to takeover Lotus, the talks dragged on until the end of the season.

Mounting concerns about the budget requirements, and dissatisfaction about commercial rights terms on offer from Bernie Ecclestone, meant there even was a short period when it appeared a deal would not get the go ahead.

Prost, who has close links with Renault and has been heavily involved in discussions about its F1 future, says that on the eve of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the situation did not look good.

"In Abu Dhabi a few days ahead of the weekend, it was almost a no go," Prost told in an exclusive interview about whether there were fears Ghosn would pull the plug.

"Only Carlos Ghosn made the decision. He had to make it himself, but yes, it [a pull-out] was very, very close.

"I haven't talked to him in the last weeks. He knew what to do, and he had to decide himself."

Difficult decision

Prost said that Renault's F1 management had to work hard to try to put together a package that would get approval from Ghosn.

But despite the time it took for a decision to be made, Prost believes the positive outcome is a sign of how committed the French car manufacturer now is.

"It was difficult, for sure," he said. "It was a long decision because of what happened you know, the relationship with Red Bull and the fight that being only a supplier was not the right choice for the future.

"So it was quite a big commitment. You need to understand that they had to take their time to decide what to do. We all know in this company maybe it takes time, but when they are committed it is going to be okay."

Long road back

Ghosn has already talked of it taking up a three years before Renault is fully competitive again in F1. It is a time-scale that Prost agrees with.

"It will take a lot of time to be competitive again," he said. "He (Ghosn) was talking about three years and I think that is the minimum. It is going to be very hard.

"But my philosophy is that it is a new project, it's a new story and what is important is that we are going to start in a very difficult environment. The deal has been signed a few hours ago. So the first year it is going to be difficult.

"But what is more important is to build a strategy and to build the story for the future, and to make a progression. That is the most important.

"You don't need to win next year, it is a long project."

Team role

Prost has been linked with taking some sort of position within the new Renault F1 operation, but says no decision has yet been made.

Ghosn has already said that an announcement of its plans for management and drivers will be made in the New Year.

"I'm waiting for January," said Prost. "Then we will see what is the organisation and if I can be a part of it or not.

"I'm very open. We are still talking, we are very open. But we need to have a clear picture."

Interview by Federico Faturos

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Teams Red Bull Racing
Article type Breaking news