Renault has reportedly given the green light to take over the Lotus squad and could announce that the deal has been completed at the Formula 1 season finale in Abu Dhabi.
According to reports from Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has approved the deal to re-purchase the Enstone-based team it owned from 2002-2010.
However Frech colleagues have responded with caution, saying that it’s not finalised yet.
Although there has still been no formal confirmation of the arrangement, sources have indicated that Renault has locked its employees into long-term contracts and the engine department was allowed to complete its most recent development cycle. These signs suggest the French manufacturer has no plans to go back on its word from September that it intends to buyout Lotus.
French magazine, Auto Hebdo, is also reporting that Renault could opt to keep the Lotus name on the team next season. This would guarantee the squad could collect its F1 prize money from 2015 in a similar way to the how Manor Marussia has been officially named this season despite having no links to its former Russian owners.
Keeping the Lotus name points to a transitional year for Renault in 2016, and this ties in with the decision to keep Pastor Maldonado and his sponsors on-board next season as the manufacturer can use the funding he brings to help it get re-established in F1.
Former Renault team principal Bob Bell is understood to be back at Enstone having left his role as consultant to Manor. Bell is a technical director and in the fullness of time may work alongside Frederic Vasseur, who has been sounded out for the role of team principal of a Renault works team.
Meanwhile, Renault’s current engine partner, Red Bull, is still facing an uncertain future and famous engine specialist Mario Illien has denied speculation that he will help the four-times constructors’ champions assemble its own power unit using unbranded Renault components for next season.
Illien, who’s company Ilmor formerly worked with Mercedes in F1, told Auto Motor und Sport that he had no idea where the reports had come from.
He said: “I know nothing of a dispute. I also have no idea what upgrades Renault has incorporated in its modified engine. I cannot imagine that a large company like Renault [would] secretly install my development.”
Illien did work with Red Bull and Renault during the first half of 2015 to help develop the power unit the team has been running this season, but the Swiss engineer explained that he would be more interested in helping to produce the independent engine that has been proposed for 2017.
He said: “I [will] look at times, what stands in the tendering [process]. Then I will decide what I’m doing.”
What do you think Renault can achieve in F1 next season? Will they improve as a full manufacturer? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.