Street Fight
Monte Carlo 2018
Monaco Grand Prix
Renault on point of quitting F1: deal with Prodrive under study
Renault on point of quitting F1: deal with Prodrive under study
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Dec 2009   |  10:09 am GMT  |  117 comments

Renault is working out a plan to leave Formula 1 before the start of next season, according to L’Equipe newspaper in France. If it goes through, the sport will have lost four major manufacturers in the space of twelve months, including Honda, BMW and Toyota.

A team has been charged by Renault president Carlos Ghosn with making a study into the possibility of striking a deal with Prodrive’s David Richards to take the team on.

Ghosn made some uncomplimentary remarks about F1 recently, claiming that it was drifting out of relevance, with the challenge for car makers in the 21st century being all about ecology and sustainability. Renault recently launched four new electric models onto the market.

According to L’Equipe, Renault Sport president Bernard Rey is leading the work to find an exit strategy while Ghosn has been meeting F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone a lot recently.

Richards was in Abu Dhabi and indicated that he was interested in working with a team to restructure for the new-look F1 with slimmed down workforces, along the lines of the Brawn and Force India models. Some of the bigger teams are going to have to lose a significant number of the workforce to fit within the resource restriction agreement and slim the travelling race team down to 45 people, roughly the number Force India was taking last season. This takes considerable expertise.

Richards will be looking for a deal which involves the minimum spend on acquisition. According to L’Equipe, Richards has a second tier manufacturer behind him, looking to make an impression on a global scale through F1. Given the increasing globalisation of F1 teams, with a US team and a Malaysian team joining the circus next year, I wonder whether it might possibly be one of the Korean brands, something Ecclestone would be likely to encourage as he seeks to push the sport into new markets. There is a Korean Grand Prix on the calendar next season.

“We will announce something the day we have something to announce,” said a Prodrive spokesman yesterday. “Prodrive had its candidature turned down by the FIA for 2010, but would be ready to engage with F1 as long as it could be competitive and the business is viable.”

There is a suggestion that part of the incentive for Richards is to relocate his Prodrive business, sell the factory in Banbury and the Renault deal would allow him to move to much larger state of the art premises with built in wind tunnel, CFD department and far better facilities.

Also looking at the deal is a company called Gravity, which is backed by venture capital firm Mangrove Partners. The founder of Mangrove is Gerard Lopez, who will be speaking next week at the Monaco Business Forum on financing in F1.

Mercedes will be monitoring the situation closely as Robert Kubica’s contract is likely to be with Renault themselves and he may well become a free agent if the team is sold. He spoke to Brawn in the summer but did not want to wait on Button’s decision before confirming his drive, so signed with Renault.

As for Renault continuing to supply engines, as I wrote here last week, Renault will continue to supply engines for 2010 and it is not hard to imagine that this arrangement would continue until the end of 2012 when the engine formula is set to change – ironically to a more environmentally friendly formula, no longer based on engine capacity but on fuel efficiency – precisely the kind of thing Renault says is important for F1.

However Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, has said that Renault wants some assurances on engine parity before committing. It is not yet confirmed that his team will use the Renault engine next year, even though it appears on their entry in the FIA entry list. It depends on what steps are taken to equalise the engines, as the FIA has indicated that this year it should be rounded down rather than rounded up and it is up to the teams to decide among themselves how that should be done,

“I think it depends on what’s done with the engine regulations moving forward in terms of parity,” said Horner. “The teams have decided that the engine should not be a performance differentiator under the frozen rules. I think it’s vital, not just in the case of Renault, but in the case of all the engine manufacturers, that a solution is found.”

Featured News
Editor's Picks
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

Well with the Sauber/Toyota decision they have just proven that nothing in F1 means what it says, and a man’s word is just hot air. So obviously the ‘Concorde agreement’ is just BS anyway.


I see a headline today (Sat 5 Dec) that Bernie says that Renault will not quit this year. “we’re in the middle of sorting it out” he apparently said. Does this mean that he is cutting another of his famous unequal deals with Renault as he did before with Ferrari and if he does won’t this invalidate the Concorde agreement? If Renault are given special terms the other teams could justifiably tear up the Concorde agreement.


Aston returning to F1 is a good thing for the sport and the marque. We know that David Richards is a winner, and Aston makes incredible road cars. Let’s hope Renault makes the right decision and sells the team to someone who knows what to do with it. see the blog at:


James and Kubica will be free? Or maybe it is already?


Renault isnt having a good time, and my clio is killing by overeating.


Bear with me here…

If Sauber have gained the 13th spot ahead of “Toyota” does that mean the Toyota situation (Concorde agreement signed, potential $150M fine for no entry, potential buyer or whatever it was Toyota had planned) has been resolved, and Toyota have a “get out of jail free” card for next season?

In that case, would the positive resolution of the Toyota situation have prompted Renault to finally make a decision to leave, knowing that as long as someone can take their slot they are free?

However, considering how comparatively lenient the FIA have been to Renault to seemingly keep them in the sport, are the FIA really just going to let them walk away?


Or more simply, Toyota go quietly, don’t try to sell on the entry and lease the equipment to an F1 team and Sauber get the entry


And with no French Grand Prix, no new circuit, no French single seat championship etc, France is rapidly exiting the world of motor sport because of their lack of vision.

Its mystifying but the French just don’t seem to care about f1 anymore. However in other forms of motorsport they are at the forefront. At Le Mans, Rallying and touring cars they still have drivers and teams at the top level and still have a huge amount of motorsport expertise behind only the UK and Italy. Only Bianchi and maybe ART can bring some interest back to f1 in the future.


Be a shame to see the back of Renault, however the team has been on a downward spiral since 2006.

I received your book today James and its brilliant. The photos in the middle are great. Will be reading it for next week or so.


Thanks for the feedback


I received your book also James and I agree with carlm21 it is brillant! Already half way through it!

Hopefully you will make the book an annual thing!


I’m very glad it is going to be an annual thing James.

But for the next book could we perhaps have more “backstage” photos behind the scenes perhaps from your perspective of Formula One? I love the Darren Heath photographs though, I really like the front page photograph.


It is indeed an annual thing. They say tradition is an experiment which worked. That’s the idea here. Collect the whole set. Thanks for the feedback


Very good news for me cause I hope it will automatically release Kubica from his Renault contract enabling him to have a chance with Mercedes. This would be a make or brake for Kubica, he would either confirm his abilities or in case of failure… no, I’m not even going there.

I do believe he is one of the best. He just does not have that playboy, male supermodel apparel like Hamilton or Alonso have, therefor isn’t particularly marketable an asset, but deserves a good car nonetheless.


I should use the word “look” or “image” rather than “apparel” cause it relates to clothing in English.


Being a huge Renault fan (I actually bought a Renault after Alonso won his 2nd Championship) I am sad to see them go 🙁


James, if this story turns out to be true, what does it mean about Kubica’s contract? Is it still in effect with the new team or is he free to look elsewhere?


I doubt whether Kubica will be free to go. Renault will still be Renault next season…except run by someone else and unless there is something specific in Kubica’s contract he’s going nowhere. Prodrive Renault aren’t going to want to be out of drivers next season either.

Mercedes aren’t going to wait on Renault to make their announcement or for Kubica to be allegedly available, who they might not get.


I think he would be free and Mercedes are monitoring the situation


The problem with the “freeze” is that the FIA has been empowered as almighty arbiter of performance. And delusional egalitarianism is antithetical to the spirit of racing.

And then Renault or Renault through the agency of Red Bull want the FIA to “grant” them another dispensation vis-a-vis an engine power increase. This coming from the team that won the last three races on the trot.

And what of Cosworth? If they appear to have more power than the rest what then? They have hired many engineers from MB, BMW and the rest while they are allowed to develop their 2010 engine. If they have less power will the FIA make Ferrari, MB, etc. detune their engines?

Politics, not engineering now rules the day. It is time to end the freeze and get back to racing and engineering.

In 2012 when the new engine rules take effect… will the engines once again be frozen? Will the teams be allowed to develop? Will development be administered by FIA bureaucrats overseeing the engineers’ every move?

The sad regulatory remnants of the Max Mosley era continues to bear its ill-conceived fruit. Does Jean Todt have anything new to offer? If so, the time to speak and act is now.

BTW, who is going supply tires next year and how are they going to develop them with no data and a testing ban? What if they are found to be unsafe because of these things? Will the FIA be liable for any injuries/deaths attributable to these restrictions? Much more to come from the ghost of Mosley.


“delusional egalitarianism ” LOL

Oh I *like that!


Not only do the engines make comparable power, but F1 has gone the way of NASCAR where engine regs are concerned: Only one layout allowed; engines “equalized” in performance, sometimes during the season through sanctioning body tinkering, after whining from one engine supplier or the other.

Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn’t scorn this. NASCAR racers being endurance cars in many respects (race distances are almost twice those in F1, and I recall Racer Magazine, as well as Racecar Engineering, making similar observations), fuel mileage counts. Races have been won and lost based on superior mileage between competitors. The cars are actually very efficient on gas mileage despite weighing roughly three times as much as an F1 car. Given this, it would be interesting to see modern F5000 cars, with NASCAR engines, vs. “pure” F1 machines.



Bridgestone next year and then 2011 is open at the moment


Who would be the most likely to take over from Bridgestone in 2011, James?


Why would ANY tyre manufacturer be interested? We need a tyre war again so any company supplying tyres can show their craft against their competition, it also provides a great sideshow to the event, which do to endless crap tracks is more often than not no show at all!


Are Bridgestone also pulling out of GP2 and other motorsport activities?

I much prefered the days of Bridgestone v. Michelin, I think it made it far more exciting because it gave another level of mystery of how each car will perform on certain tracks compared to each other.


No, staying in GP2




Who knows? It could be a problem. Bridgestone are pulling out to concentrate on other things, and frankly the investment in Formula 1 wasn’t worth it, Michelin got their noses put out of joint and won’t go back, Goodyear pulled out and don’t want to go back and Pirelli have said no. That’s all the major tyre manufacturers.


Bit early to say but Michelin are the obvious ones, but there were some political problems when they quit. Or an ambitious company like Kumho, maybe


So Richards has “a second tier” manufacturer behind him, which you think is one of the Koreans. You’re not talking about the world’s fourth largest automaker Hyundai/Kia since they are anything but second tier, at least compared to Renault? They are making enormous gains in all markets and getting them aboard would be a very good thing for F1.


Bloody awful cars though!


I am and always have been a fan of manufacturers as engine suppliers and teams being run by those who live and breathe the sport.

Technology partnerships with manufacturers on engines and support are good but inevitably their accountants and internal politics get in the way.

Independant teams and manufacturer engines are a better recipe IMHO.

Really glad to see cosworth back!


As an environmental impact assessment student I find it a challenge to express the efficiency component of F1 to my colleagues and others. Yes there is an awful lot of fuel consumption but also a significant effort
to be efficient. The challnge of making the sport’s transport demands carbon neutral is being tackled with no refeulling rigs, planned offsets, reduced team sizes etc. Gohsn is missing an opportunity to improve his own company’s including Nissan’s efficiency to the market.

I can’t see F1 being ever perceived of as green until the fuel that drives the cars is cleaner, yet the major polluting aspects can be tackled in the meantime.


Or they can copy the IRL and run spec Honda engines burning Methanol.

No ‘parity’ issues, less of that nasty carbon, less R&D, all the engines always bolt on the same holes. Of course they’d have to proclaim them the ‘pinnacle’ of something or other and *that might not go down well, but w/e…


I wonder what is the impact on Kubica’s seat at Renault if the sale goes thru. Is the driver part of “the package” or he becomes a free-agent ?


The only surprise here is how long it took for Renault to make this announcement. F1 is simply too expensive a marketing exercise to justify (to shareholders, laid off employees, etc), especially given the PR hits Renault has taken over the last year, when you’re not winning and your core business is suffering. “Wait a couple of more years and F1 will fit your image” won’t wash when problems in the core business need solving RIGHT NOW. Selling up the F1 unit should at least free up some cash and other resources, so getting out is a sound decision.

I don’t see how a privateer-filled grid won’t impact Bernie’s business model: How much glamour, glitz and cubic money can Bernie spin with a grid of unknown privateers? That’s the di Montezemolo question, but it is worth asking. I love the idea of a grid filled with privateers, but it makes no difference to me whether it’s privateers or factories; I’m already a fan. Those of us who are already fans know the players, with or without a scorecard. How many NEW fans (and sponsors) will be attracted by “Ferrari and…” (sorry Ron. Outside the rather insular F1 world, McLaren doesn’t rate with the ordinary, non-F1 sports fan)?

Without the factories, does the value of the “build it and Bernie will come” mentality that has seen tracks spring up in Turkey, China, etc., now diminish? Granting that almost every race (help me out James; how many aren’t?) is propped up with government money, are these governments going to continue doing so without the prestige of multinational manufacturers competing at these tracks? Will we see an exodus of sponsors from the sport for the same reason? If so, would Bernie even permit sponsorship by “ordinary” consumer brands like (extreme examples for purposes of illustration) Kellog’s Corn Flakes or Heinz Ketchup to fill that gap, but sully F1’s “high end” image that he has worked so hard to create?

I don’t know if Renault’s exit is the tipping point that will lead to all these consequences, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Whether or not David Richards and Prodrive actually join the circus is a possibility that has been raised so often that I’m skeptical. Rather too much like crying wolf. I’ll believe it IF it happens.


Renault have a majority stake in a Korean car manufacturer called Renault Samsung. Originally the cars were based on Nissan models but they are now starting to base them off Renault models.

If Renault can shift the cost of it’s F1 team to it’s Korean arm it could be another “win-win” for F1.


What will happen with Kubica’s drive for next year? We have to have him on the grid next year, we have already lost Kimi, we can’t lose Kubica as well.

If Renault do not find a buyer and still decide to leave Formula One, where could Kubica end up? Mercedes perhaps or one of the newer teams?


Richards is a top bloke where motor racing is concerned and it would be good to see him up against the likes of McLaren and Ferrari.

If Prodrive secure the Renault facilities what’s the chances of them racing under the Aston Martin name?

It would be great to see McLaren up against Ferrari and competitive Lotus’s Long shot) and Aston Martin’s.

Thoughts James…..


It would be good to see Dave in F1, his previous submission was excluded for reasons thought not to fall in line with Max’s Cosworth promise.

Reducing the travelling team to 45 people is tough with 15 per car for a pit stop, (plus standby starter and firemen) that leaves 15 for everything else, (assuming fireman and starter have other roles as well) including performance monitoring, team managing race engineers, strategy planning, tea making, sponsor wrangling etc.

If engines are turned down to a lower power level this will enhance their longevity. If power is equal (most unlikely) then everything else becomes even more important.


Yeah, you dont really need 3 ppl per wheel to make tire changes. Many series make do with far fewer and thus have fewer ppl out there in the danger zone.


I find the comments of Carlos Ghosn quite amusing about Formula One ‘losing relevance’ on the world stage. How strange that, back in 2005 and 2006, when his company were winning F1 championships the sport was all of a sudden ‘relevant’.

David Richards is, for me, the perfect example. Much like Ross Brawn, he knows how to get the best from people and has a unique understanding on the motorsport business. Renault, much like Honda and Toyota, may know how to sell cars or build engines, but they are not racing people in the mould of men such as Richards and Brawn.

Formula One was built around independant teams such as the likes of Ferrari, the classic example of a team built to race as opposed to just building great road cars.

For the big car companies, Formula One was a vehicle to advertise their wares, nothing more. When a business starts to bleed money, as has happened with the economic downturn, the first thing any CO does is cuts advertising. How embarrassing, for example, was it for Honda to see their F1 engines going pop on an almost race by race scale, when they proudly advertise their road cars as being the most reliable in the business? Then there is BMW, not just selling cars that you take to pick up the kids from school, but luxary sedans and coupes. The highend of the scale, but who in 2009, could not produce an F1 engine worth a damn!

With a team like Williams, there is no big wig in Tokyo or Stuttgart to satisfy if things go pear shaped. The team exists, just as Enzo Ferrari envisaged his team nearly a century before, to race and nothing else. Is it any wonder that these are the teams that are still with us, when all of the billion dollar glamour mongers have long since departed to lick their wounds and soothe their egos.


I would love to see Prodrive in orange and blue Gulf livery in Formula One! I really hope a deal can be worked out for them, as they are a real racing team.


Why do I have the feeling that Formula-1 is like a sinking ship…?


… this truly is a shame as I was looking forward to the classic yellow/white/black livery from Renault.

F1 needs to get their act together. It has to become relevant again. Okay, F1 will never be green but it could give R&D a turbo boost. Look at KERS. McLaren did get it right by the end of the F1 season. That is insane for an unproven technology.

Cutting edge green technology should come at the forefront.


I would conservatively estimate that 80% (really probably more like 90%) of F1’s carbon footprint can be attributed to travelling to and from the various race venues.

So unless they are planning on adding KERS to Airbus planes I highly doubt F1 will be “green” any time soon.


Yep. Like I said months ago – if they really wanted to save money and be green they’d just cut the traveling band in half. Including, I might add, all the PR and adverts ppl.

Top Tags