Renault has called a press conference in Paris tomorrow to announce its decision on Formula 1.
The sponsorship of the French Total oil company is also included. In return the team remains under the Renault name for at least the 2010 season. It is understood that this last point is very important to Bernie Ecclestone, who has had a hand in brokering the deal.
The Renault engine operation in Viry Chatillon in Paris is not part of the deal, it remains 100% Renault owned.
French sources say that Renault is doing the deal with Lopez because it doesn’t want to spend the money required to close the operation down, nor does it have the budget to go racing as it was before.
It will be interesting to see which team management figures Lopez takes on from Renault. Sources suggest that interim team principal Bob Bell will stay in the role and James Allison will remain as technical director. It is not clear whether Jean Francois Caubet, a Renault man, will remain as managing director of the team. Lopez told me in Monaco last week that he has no intention of running the team himself, but wants to leave it to professional management. There were concerns among some members of the Renault board that Lopez might be a front for Flavio Briatore trying to buy the team, but these were discounted when I enquired with senior team management figures.
Lopez is doing this deal as an investor, along the lines of his previous activities. He believes that he can make money in F1 using the team as a platform, but people I have spoken to, who know Lopez, say that there is a much bigger picture for him in F1 and that his horizons do not end at team ownership.
“We see the whole environment as providing an opportunity,” Lopez said last Wednesday during his appearance at the Motorsport Business Forum in Monaco. “The situation is such right now that it provides an opportunity for new teams and new investors – it’s not a time of uncertainty but a time of change. Times of change usually provide an entry point. We believe there is a chance to enter the sport and build a platform that sort of has to reinvent itself. If we were to become part of F1 we could be part of that reinvention,”
These sentiments were echoed by Richard Branson and the Virgin team today at their launch. The Resource Restriction Agreement has changed everything in F1.
Lopez is in the same business as CVC, venture capital, and it will be interesting to see how they view him as time goes on and the fact that Ecclestone is so keen to get him involved in F1 makes it even more intriguing. Having twice invested in tech companies and sold out for over a billion, he has deep pockets and a good eye for an investment.