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Some insight into Renault’s plan for F1 team
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Some insight into Renault’s plan for F1 team
Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Feb 2010   |  5:27 pm GMT  |  72 comments

When Renault announced that it had decided to sell a majority stake in its F1 team to tech investor Gerard Lopez, many people in the sport questioned what the strategy was.

Was it a way for the manufacturer to pull out of the sport while appearing to stay involved? Was it a fig leaf to cover up the embarrassment of a pullout? Is this team still Renault, even though as much as 75% of the UK based team is now owned by Lopez? And why did they turn down an offer from David Richards, who wanted to rebrand the team Aston Martin and move his entire operation to the team’s Enstone base?

G Lopez
The new car was launched a week ago and is very much branded Renault; the livery is the corporate colour scheme of Renault, echoing the look and feel of the turbo cars back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. So what is this team all about?

Some insight into what Renault are up to and Lopez’ plans for the team comes from a punchy interview with the entrepreneur in l’Equipe this week.

All the talk in the internet business circles at the moment is of the importance of “platforms”, like Google, Facebook and the like. Lopez sees his F1 team as a “platform” and a “hub” around which he can construct a business network.

“Our desire has always been to come into F1 to represent our Mangrove Capital Partners company and develop our activity, which is international business, ” says Lopez. ” F1 will be a platform for us..a hub. We will entrust the racing team to specialists, while the Mangrove people take care of business.

“We will propose to our sponsors something other than a sticker on a car. We will propose collaborations with companies in our portfolio. For example, Genii (an arm of Mangrove) is working on an engine which reduces consumption by 40%. The development of this would benefit from a partnership with an oil company.”

And by being so closely aligned with Renault he hopes to propose to the automotive giant, “some interesting projects regarding new technology, the environment and so on, areas where we are very strong.”

Lopez is a big believer in internet in cars, for VOIP, navigation and other applications and has investments in programmes to perfect the technologies.

Picture 65
“If Renault is promoting its brand for the first time in a long time, it is doing so in a structured way,” said Lopez. “There was no point in us taking part in some sideshow where we act as a sightscreen for Renault to creep out of F1 on tip-toes. When we saw that Renault was prepared to show its colours in a serious way, we said ‘This is a partnership which could work.’ ”

He is not short of self-belief, “Mercedes aligned itself with Brawn because Brawn would bring it success. Renault has aligned with us because Genii can bring success, ” he says.

He argues that his approach to F1 is “do it properly or don’t do it at all.” When you have involvement in world renowned brands like Skype, “you can’t damage its reputation by mediocre performances in F1.”

Lopez does not want to be seen as a team boss. Genii installed Eric Boullier in Flavio Briatore’s old office as team principal. Renault will have a representative on the executive committee of the team. Boullier will represent the team at FOTA meetings, but Lopez will take up Renault’s seat at F1 Commission meetings, involving the FIA and will deal with Bernie Ecclestone.

He is an interesting character and it’s clear he is not doing the F1 team as a billionaire’s vanity exercise, but rather looking to establish a new business model, based on F1’s colossal following and media platform.

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1

This may be obvious, or conversely I may be wrong…but it continually strikes me during this off-season, that F1 is in a state of change unlike anything we’ve seen for a long time. Not only are teams and drivers changing, but it feels as if the whole mindset and philosophy of F1 is changing.

For a long time, it has been a business as much as a sport, we all know that, but it always seemed to be an “old” business model that was fairly rigid in its ways. Sell sponsorship, win races, sell sponsorship, etc. Now, the fresh and entrepreneurial team owners are taking advantage of an atmosphere of change and bringing new ideas to the table. I think we will see the sport open up to the public a lot more in the coming years.

The new faces in the sport will be more likely to look ‘outwards’ from the core, rather than looking ‘inwards’ and always trying to protect the inner sanctum of sponsors and business dealings. These people are here to open their businesses to the world, and they understand that the new way to do this is to be transparent and social and open to the world.

I’m not sure how strict the rules are about teams filming the goings on at events, but hopefully F1 and Bernie will be wise enough to let these teams use tools like YouTube and social media to show the behind the scenes action that TV could never have time for. Fun times ahead!

2

I think you are right and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Will write something on this

3

Sorry, but to me Lopez speaks of the internet and tech platforms with all the cred of my Aunt Mabel…c’mon! I work in that industry – he clearly doesn’t.

Skype as a global brand reference? Sure, lots of ppl know it, but as a cheap voip alternative that often drops out and promises little except ‘try it, its not THAT bad’.

‘Platforms’ like Google and Facebook? One’s a Search giant and one’s a Social Networking giant – i’m sorry, where does “Platform Renault” fit? What is it’s reason for being? It looks like a marketing platform, just the same as all the others, but with a slightly thicker layer of BS around it.

4

Agreed. Note the still blank sidepods. You’d think that if any of his internet Mangrove clients were actually interested in the F1 operation their names would be on the cars for the launch event. Did SenorLopez query his clients of interest before he went out and bought the team?

5

Isn’t the Genii Capital that Lopez refers to the same company that made up the consortium including Bernie Ecclestone that tried (and failed) to buy Saab?

6

Based on this interview, I can see why Bernie was so adamant about getting Lopez into F1. He clearly has vision.

7

So, what kind of ‘technology partnership’ is involved in the £13m pay-drive deal with Petrov?

8

Online loan comparisons?

Apparently his dad’s having trouble getting the loan secured and hasn’t received the money from the bank as yet, so Petrov may not have the funds for a seat

http://www.planet-f1.com/story/0,18954,3213_5926420,00.html

9

Good article indeed.

I can’t see Renault having a good season in 2010 though.

10

Hi James, (and everyone else!)

Sorry for this post in a daft place again, but I could do with some help.

I’ve already told you I’m planning to go to the test at Jerez, but I’m disabled and I have no idea what access is like. I have emailed the circuit but have not received a response. I would like to know what parking, access, services, viewpoints etc are like, and whether the grandstand is covered from rain etc.

Also, due to the massive tailbacks at Valencia when he drove, could you tell me when Alonso will be driving, so I can get there early.

I appreciate that this is not your area, but you’ve been so helpful in the past, and anything you could tell me would be a great help, even if its directing me to a more appropriate person to ask!

Thanks and great website!

11

Alonso is driving the first two days. Not sure about disabled access to Jerez nor where to start in finding out. I’d call the circuit – they are bound to speak English.

12

Thanks James

13

Going off on a tangent, but loosely connected to this article, just wondering about Genii and where the name comes from after watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang this weekend.

GEN 11 is the number plate of the famous car, and I just wondered if this is a coincidence, as the car built into the wonderful CCBB was a mythically famous racing car. It’s got to be a coincidence surely?

On a serious note, Lopez seems to have his head screwed on, and could lead the way towards a financial model for future F1 teams. I’m sure there has been some shoulder rubbing between sponsors in the past, but Lopez seems to want to push the envelope here and build a sponsorship team around the F1 team, using the F1 technology to some extent in their product development rather than just the media coverage. Sponsor and technology partner, in much the same way as Shell and Ferrari have been. Interesting idea but there can’t be too many companies out there with the R&D budget and product portfolio to make this work. One to keep an eye on though I think.

14

off topic,

James do you think Toyota decision to pull out of F1 was in anyway connected with the current recall of road cars?

15

No

16

Bernie has now confirmed that all the teams can opt out of a maximum of three races this year. How ridiculas, this is why in the past teams had to pay an entry bond of $48,000,000 to make sure they were finacialy viable.

I agree the bond was probably too much but it served a pupose.

Will we see four teams turn up at Brazil and Abu Dhabi(taking into account the one or two that will go bust during the season?).

17

please tell me the lotto numbers for this week-end. You sure must have a cristal ball.

And don’t forget that, in this economy you have to give people some room to manouver. Otherwise f1 would be with just ferrari and mclaren running. Thing that you wouldn’t be against if they were all british drivers.

18

Yawn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

19

James, do you reckon another, simpler rationale might be that Renault want to expand their sales in east europe, hence the Warsaw Pact team of Kubica and Petrov?

20

I gathered from that, that Renault has sold him the team, but are now the title sponsors of the team.

21
maldito james allen

renault world champions again.

22
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James – just so that you know

“maldito James Allen” is Spanish for “damn/bloody James Allen”

I don’t understand why people like this like to waste their time. It’s a shame.

23
Christopher Snowdon

Do you think Renault want to create a Mclaren/Mercedes type deal we’ve seen in the last 14 odd years or so? Until this year of course, Mclaren have been thought of as the works Mercedes team.

24

nono, the turbo colours were: black, yellow AND white!

They just need to add white to get the vintage look because they look like bees now.

25

James, I’d be glad if you could provide us with some conclusion regarding this article. I mean, yes Gerard Lopez says that there is no point in being mediocre. But, in your opinion, are they able to achieve it? How long will it take? Year or more? What are prospects according to your and sources and based on what you saw in Valencia for example?

26

I’m sincerly enjoying most of the blogs, inciseive,intellegent,and they raise very interesting questions regards todays business modes. My only comment is that the majority of SPECTATORS AND PARTICIPANTS don’t care where the money comes from, or how it gets there. The only concern is that the CHECKS ARRIVE, the cars are on the grid and the show goes on! As an ex team owner I admit a good part of me has always felt the same way. The Renault deal may make some people nervous, but the bottom line is that THE TEAM is still racing and in this tough game, thats what counts!

27

The guy sounds sincere and I wish him all the best, but I would take a genuine racer like Peter Sauber over him any day.

I get the impression that if Renault go through one or two bad seasons this guy won’t be seen for the dust.

28

This is actually very cool and mirrors what Virgin are doing with VR. They get the name at no cost by bringing in people who want to use Virgins contacts and Business acumen to create a win win. So this is nothing new with Renault and if we are honest it has gone on for years.

HP are? or was? a large sponsor of Williams and provide laptops to the team advantage but it gave then a big ‘IN’ to the customer base who was technology proficient because of what F1 is.

Great article James and a sign of the times which will give F1 a better and revised set of business criteria to build from.

29

great reading as always james, thank you!

30

James you haven’t written much about Lotus, and am curious how people’s perception on team name-branding is to that compared to FakeRenault.

In all seriousness F1 is becoming more about advertising than racing. You can’t hate SenorLopez without hating RichardBranson who in comparison has been cheered into F1. But really their in it for the exact same purposes.

Were lucky RedBullRacing has proven racing is in their blood otherwise would people feel the same about their intentions. We’ve got to give all the new teams a chance and see what happens.

31

I’ve done a bit on Lotus, but to be honest it’s all been quite recent and I’m waiting until their launch on Friday in London.

32

Hi James is the Lotus Launch at the Royal Horticultural Hall on Friday open to the public or is it a private affair?

I suspect it’s private guests, which is a shame, F1 teams are really missing the boat with these private launches. I hope the mass launch idea for next year is more fan friendly.

I think Lotus and Virgin are gonna do alright in their first year, just a feeling. Good luck to them.

33

I find it quite amusing how much bashing Lopez is getting.

Never before has a team been so highly criticized. Or should I say team owner, after all the factory and crew are still the same Renault that we all use to know and love, aren’t they? Or is Lopez really building a new team from scratch? Did the original Renault crew already jump ship as Kubica considered doing? IF the people are still there can’t Lopez successfully continue where Renault left off. But that’s like saying StefanGP will be just as competitive as Toyota left off, not quite believable. So it still remains to be seen whether the team is still “Renault” or now “FakeRenault”. Its intriguing to see how it will pan out this year.

I say never before has someone been so criticized but goes to show how the internet and blogging has changed F1 fans voice. It seems here, that people are putting Lopez in the same book as AlexShenaider/MidlandF1 and SpykerF1, turning the team into something to be bought and sold every year. We just don’t want to see that shame happening again this decade.

I don’t know much about Gerard Lopez, but every time I hear his name brought up I pronounce it SenorLopez with that shady-Mexican twist, jokingly no racism intended.

34

Agree. F1 has to be paid for of course but these neo business models won’t result in winng F1 teams.

What is it with Internet in cars anyway?

There are obvious uses but it’s not revolutionary. The techs there and the lack if mass up take suggest the application is limited if not un exciting.

35

I don’t particulary care what sticker is on the side of that car aslong as the team wants to go racing and not just a quick buck. And secondly James I’d rather no who u think is the pound for pound top 10 in f1 at the moment and other readers join in and let’s have a debate

36

This is the death knell for Toleman/Benetton/Renault. It took them many years to clime to the pinnacle of F1, but their descent has been rapid and inglorious.

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