It was good to see today that Williams has joined forces with Renault again, recreating a partnership which dominated F1 racing in the 1990s. Together they won four Drivers’ and five Constructors’ world titles and 63 race victories.
The circumstances are rather different this time, in that Williams joins a list of customers including Red Bull Racing, Lotus Renault GP and Team Lotus. Back in the 1990s it was for a the works team, with Ligier and then Benetton coming along in 1995 to also get the engine.
The deal is for 2012 and 2013 for the current V8 engines, which won last year’s world championship with Red Bull. But as Williams’ chairman Adam Parr points out, “We are already working on an extension for the new engine formula which arrives in 2014.”
This is backed up by Renault Sport chairman Bernard Rey’s view that they enter the partnership,
“With a view to continuing after the introduction of the new, energy efficient, turbocharged V6 engines in 2014.”
The deal will make Renault the largest supplier of engines in F1, ahead of Cosworth, Ferrari and Mercedes. It means that Cosworth goes down to just two teams for next year; Virgin and HRT. And with the announcement of their technical partnership with McLaren that may well see Virgin becoming another Mercedes customer.
Parr notes in his comments that the reason for the split with Cosworth was, “We had an understanding with Cosworth that continuing beyond this year was dependent on the longer-term prospects with the new engine. So, this was foreseen.”
In other words this is as much about positioning and technical stability at the point where the new breed of F1 engines comes in for the 2014 season, as it is about the next two years.
This deal has been in the offing for some time and really accelerated in recent weeks when the picture became clearer about what direction F1 engines were taking in the future.
It’s interesting that these strategic plays are coming in now.
And as far as Williams are concerned, with a new technical team and a new engine partnership, they cannot be accused of sitting idle.