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What is Renault’s long term strategy with Formula 1?
What is Renault’s long term strategy with Formula 1?
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Dec 2009   |  7:08 pm GMT  |  38 comments

Renault announced today, as expected, that it is to stay in F1 for the moment, but having sold an interest in its Enstone chassis operation to Genii Capital, run by tech investor Gerard Lopez.

Lopez was not present at the announcement in Paris and Renault’s long term strategy in F1 is not clear from today’s announcement.

Of primary importance as far as Bernie Ecclestone is concerned is that the name Renault remains in the sport and that they continue as a supplier of engines, to maintain the balance with Mercedes and Cosworth and it was also confirmed today that Red Bull will continue to use the Renault engines.

David Richards is left disappointed once again. He planned to move his whole operation into Enstone, including the Le Mans programme and his other Prodrive activities. He was going to brand the cars as Aston Martins in time.

Meanwhile it has been suggested that Robert Kubica could be free to leave the Reanult team, should he wish to, under the change of ownership clause in his contract. This will depend on whether Lopez has indeed taken a controlling stake, the 75%, which was being openly discussed, which would mean that the ownership had indeed changed. Renault suggested it was a “large stake” and it makes no sense for Lopez to take anything less than a controlling interest, as Mercedes took in Brawn.

Mercedes will be monitoring the Kubica situation as he is a strong option should the Michael Schumacher one year deal not go through for any reason. Even those close to Kubica appear not to be in full possession of the facts about Renault’s plans yet,

“The cards have changed in respect of when we signed and it’s important Renault give us full information,” Kubica’s manager, Daniele Morelli told BBC. “We are not against the new position in principle, but it is important to know who will run the team and what kind of strategies they will use. It could be positive or negative.

“We need some time – at least a few days – to evaluate the new situation so I am not in a position to say we will leave or stay.”

Morelli did point out that sometimes investors boost a team and take it to the next level, such as Mansour Ojjeh with McLaren.

But Morelli’s question marks are ones that many people have about what Renault plans to do. It looks as though there was a large shortfall in Renault’s operating budget for 2010, due to sponsor withdrawals and the manufacturer was not willing to close its operation down, with the enormous costs involved. Moreover, as they had signed the Concorde Agreement there was an obligation to stay until 2012 as well as significant pressure from Ecclestone to keep the engine operation going. So they seem to have found themselves in an awkward position with little time to sort it out. They might have taken the best investor deal they could without having a clear strategy of what happens next. The positive spin on it is that they have kept their options open.

Morelli’s point about who will run the team is a good one; Bob Bell remains team principal for the moment, but Renault Sport’s Bernard Rey told French colleagues that Lopez may look to appoint a new team principal and that Bell would return to his old role as technical director. Apparently there is a shortlist of three possible team principals.

It is interesting that in the midst of all this activity, Ferrari should choose to get Felipe Massa back behind the wheel of an F1 car. He tested a 2007 customer car, although the weather cut short his running. The test is a re-familiariser for the Brazilian, which was suggested some time ago, but some sceptics are seeing it as a test to see if he really is up to returning next season after his injury and whether the team should look at Schumacher or Kubica given that potentially available. Ferrari strenuously deny this interpretation.

Massa told the Ferrari website, “Although I was behind the wheel of a completely different car compared to the one for next year, I had a perfect feeling, which gives me hope for the upcoming season.

“I was very quick immediately and nothing seems to have changed in my driving style compared to before the accident. I want to thank Ferrari for this present, which, together with my son, makes this Christmas even more special.”

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Massa has been very impressive in all of the go-kart races he has been doing,

there is nothing wrong with his speed James.


Great to hear, thanks


Massa asked Ferrari for the test, the way i see it, he wants to get as much running while all of his title contenders (Alonso Hamilton) are sitting around at home.

Good move Massa


renault need bertrand baguette in their second seat don’t they… can you imagine the headlines! 🙂


Hi James,

Isn’t Renault’s decision to “remain in F1” with Lopez because they are stuck legally after signing the Concorde Agreement, and that the cost of redundancies makes it cost-prohibitive to close shop immediately as they would like?

Is Lopez paying anything or has he been given the team ownership to limit RF1’s ongoing spend and liability?




I think he gets the factory and two years worth of engines for free


I don’t think, Renault will sign Ho-Pin Tung for the 2nd seat. As a test driver maybe, but nothing more… I mean, just take a look at the guy’s results of the past few years…

Anyway, Franck Montagny is/was in talks with Renault, too. I do hope, the heads of the Renault team have realised how big mistake it was to let the driver go who helped them develop their championship winning car(s).


i thought it was 50/50 renault/genii now? to me, it makes no sense that a manufacturer tries to make a car – just make an engine, the FIA will ensure there’s parity amongst them all so you can’t really lose, especially when you have an existing unit. then let a racing team put all the serious money into aero development and designing the car. you still get the cache of being involved, but with much less of the risk. renault would be insane to consider pulling out of the engine side whilst they have a deal with red bull, and if they can offload their own team to someone else without any penalty, but continue to supply the engines, then that’s a no brainer too.



Why can’t David Richards get an operation going in F1? He has the money, facilities and the technical know-how which has brought him success in motorsports (albeit not in F1).

So why does he always seem to get overlooked when it comes to running an F1 team? Has he annoyed someone or done something wrong?


It’s about putting the right package together.


I think the Renault team name will stay for 2 years until the suspended sentence runs out. It would also work with the Concorde Agreement if the name change is after 1st jan 2012. So no fines for Renault.

Without Renault in control what advantage would Prost be? Maybe David Richards is on the short list!

I also think old JV is starting to look desperate. The only seat he has not been sniffing around in F1 is Trap 3 at Becketts!


Hmm James, can you shed any light on the strenght of the rumor of Ferrari preparing Massa for a year off to accomodate Schumacher/Kubica?

This year really is the year for crazy rumors, it’s kinda exciting becuase anything could happen. The of-season has actually matched this years season for unpredictability. 🙂


Ferrari say it is utter garbage


It is difficult to fathom Renault’s logic. The original plan was supposedly to bring the F1 team closer to the corporate centre following the damaging rogue actions of Briatore, Symonds and Piquet. Plan B was presumably to pull out completely.

Now, it puts the brand image at greater risk by selling a (presumably) controlling interest. Either the financial situation is really bad or Ecclestone and Todt have exercised some real clout.

James, any ideas who the shortlisted team principle candidates may be? I guess Renault could still be keen on Prost but I was wondering whether he could be in line to be an FIA steward.


I don’t see Prost in either role, but you never know. No indications at this moment on the team principal role


Brilliant news that a quality team is staying in formula one. I just hope they put a decent driver in the second car. I’m guessing Grosjean won’t be staying…


We want Villeneuve back in F1 Mr.Lopez…. I think in a decent Renault he would be good…


Is David Richards the unluckiest man in F1 at the moment?


James, I don’t understand the confusion. Seems obvious which direction Renault (as a team) is headed: OUT.

Having signed the Concorde Agreement, Renault wants to avoid legal/financial difficulties related to their departure. After the Honda, BMW, & Toyota withdrawals, Bernie doesn’t want a fourth “name” to leave the sport. So, optically, keeping the Renault “name” in the sport like this 1. Creates (false) hope and 2. Works to the benefit of everyone above. Hence, this accommodation.

What’s in it for Lopez? An all but free team (it shouldn’t cost him much more than it cost Ross to buy Honda), with a Renault label & dowry.

Make no mistake, it’s Lopez’s team now (and will be increasingly so over time). Except in name, Renault (as a team) is all but gone. Even the name will disappear in a season or two.

Depending on Lopez’s approach, that’s not a bad thing. But we’re kidding ourselves to think Renault won’t be less involved over time. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be headed down this path at all.

However, with frozen engine regs and a winning customer in Red Bull, Renault (the engine supplier) will stick around and milk that relatively low/sunk-cost success for all its worth. Until the engine regs change, or Red Bull looks elsewhere.


Elsewhere the stake is mentioned as 80% leaving the Reggie very much the minority stockholder and having passed control out of their hands.

So why was Bernie so insistent that the name must not change?


Not wanting to be seen to have lost four manufacturers in 12 months, but mainly the engine supply


Yeah, I looked at the odds for MSC this morning hoping to but a cheeky bet on. I got 7/1 🙁


Kubica to Mercedes has been my mantra recently.

If he’s not going to get it I’d rather him go rallying alongside Kimi.

The new Renault team will inevitably produce a piece of junk, similar to last year or even worse.


Kubica deserves better than this sort of treatment, here’s hoping he ends up at Mercedes or Ferrari.


Here’s a very cheeky bet for you James – just put some money on Kubica to win the 2010 WDC at 33/1.

If the Schumacher drive falls through, along with Kubica possibly leaving Renault and landing a Mercedes drive, I believe he has the speed and consistency to do it. Give him a top car and he’s right up there in terms of pure ability.

Lots of ‘ifs and buts’ to that punt, but there were when I bet that Jenson would be World Champion last year and I won a tidy amount from that.

Schumacher’s odds are suprisingly short considering he hasn’t got the drive yet – just 8/1 for the 2010 crown.


Best of luck, Jon! Just think how the tiny number of people prepared to put money on Jenson Button this time last year must feel now… He was on something like 99/1.

There are a few reasons, however, why we are starting to think that betting on the WDC is not so much fun, especially at this point in the season.

For one thing it’s hard to make any kind of informed choice without seeing what happens in winter testing – just look at McLaren and Ferrari this year.

For another, you tie your stake up for such an incredibly long period of time.

Maybe a bet closer to the season start or money on individual races might be generally a more rewarding proposition.


Nice one!


Hey James, would appreciate your insight or best guess with regards to who will get the second Renault seat… 🙂

Bob Bell was quoted as saying they were looking at Heidfeld, Kobayashi and Kovalainen to partner Kubica.

Seems Kobayashi has signed with Sauber according to reports and Kovalainen as we know is now confirmed at Lotus…

Im guessing Heidfeld will end up at Sauber along with Kobayashi..

Lopez has some drivers on his Gravity books, Tung, D’Ambromosio.. but these are young drivers with little or no F1 experience, seems highly unlikely either will get a race seat, maybe test drivers?

Gravity also apparently manage a certain french canadian world champion by the name of Jacques Villeneuve…

Could we possible see JV back in F1 2010 with Renault? If Schumacher can come back i dont see why JV cant??


I hear Sauber are looking for pay drivers. If Ferrari back Fisi maybe, but Heidfeld would be a good option for Renault. I see Tung maybe getting a third driver role


I’d love to see Heidfeld driving again under the Sauber tag. Brings back some good memories from when he drove with them, especially Brazil 2001 where he got 3rd place! Great race it was too.


I can offer up to two hundred quid or even more when my next pension payment arrives.


“Lopez was not present at the announcement in Paris”

That shows just how devoted he is to this team, and Formula One in general. I hope that Kubica gets a drive elsewhere and that Renault folds this coming season. This joker Gerard should stick to investing in his industry.

Also, how shameful of Renault to lack the testicular fortitude to use this as their exit strategy.


I think Renault wanted to own the message. Lopez is actually quite a fan and owns and drivers regularly some recent F1 cars..he’s not a faceless bean counter from what I’ve seen of him so far


James, thank you for curing my ignorance. I still don’t the idea like venture capital in sport, but if he isn’t going to jump ship because of poor results then I can stomach it.


That’s very informative, James, thanks for that. It certainly puts a different slant on things in my mind.


Dutch media are constantly reminding us that Lopez’s Genii Capital owns Gravity Sports, the company that manages Chinese/Dutch driver Ho-Pin Tung, who tested for Renault last month.

The Dutch are hoping Tung will partner Kubica at Renault. Given the relation between Lopez and Tung’s management, this possibility does not seem completely unlikely.

Not many F1 fans know that Tung was born and raised in the Netherlands and made it into the first year of Rotterdam University. His Dutch is arguably better than his Chinese.

If Tung makes it into F1 with Renault, you can be sure the Dutch will feel they finally found a successor to Verstappen, Doornbos and Albers.


did you see his practice times at Jerez? – there may be a very good reason but he was way off the pace.

good luck Felipe – welcome back to the pressure cooker – not much – with Michael and Robert perhaps breathing down your neck

Sander van Angelen

I’m Dutch and would like to see a Ducht driver in F1 but one who deserved his seat due to the results he had in racing and not becouse of his sponsership deal. I was more impressed with Doornbos than with Thung to be honest and he didn’t make it in F1.

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