There is a very interesting interview in French magazine Auto Hebdo this week, with Jean Francois Caubet, general manager of the Renault Sport F1 unit, which is now solely an engine supplier in F1, after the marque sold its stake in the F1 team to Genii Capital and Lotus.
Caubet justifies Renault’s decision to change role on the grounds of return on investment; F1 will now be a profit centre for the company with sales of engines to Red Bull and Lotus and then in 2013 a fourth team as well.
Right now Renault finds itself embroiled in the battle over the right to race as Lotus in F1 and he is quite fleet footed in dealing with the main points,
“We have a contract for engine supply without knowing yet what the name of the team will be, ” he says. “We don’t want to get involved in this quarrel, it’s up to Renault and Proton to sort this out. The deal with Tony Fernandes is a little complicated by this name business, but his team has shown itself to be the most active of the three new teams in 2010. If we want to start looking for a fourth team for 2013, we need a solid base of three teams.
” We are very comfortable with Lotus Cars, which is not a direct competitor. They produce 2000 cars a year, our relationship with Proton is also excellent. The market is global now and Malaysia must open its borders (to foreign vehicle imports) and Proton must come out of isolation to conquer new markets. So it needs a strong car maker ally. They want to work with us, so industrial and strategic links are in place way above what is going on in F1. ”
Caubet believes that after several years of frozen engine specifications in the interests of cost saving, the new engine rules will give the chance -at least initially – for the engine to be the differentiator in performance, “There are three groups of manufacturers,” he said. ” The French, including Renault; the Germans including Mercedes. It’s too soon for BMW to return and then there is VW which is hesitating. Why because from 2013 the engine could be the difference between winning and losing/ The risk is there. The third group? It is the Japanese – they have all been there at the meetings and I’ve been surprised by their interest in the new engine. Of course talking is free, but I sense that they’ve evolved their thinking.. the Europeans are there, it’s new technology…we can’t afford not to be there too.” Honda are thinking very seriously about it.
Caubet also feels from conversations with his opposite numbers at other car companies that they are all reviewing involvement and sponsorship spend in other sports, when motor sport is so obviously connected to the car industry.