For some time there has been speculation that Renault might once again walk away from Formula One.
Despite being the driving force behind the hybrid formula it has never mastered it, and with its sole remaining customer team now switching to Mercedes power in 2021, not to mention the works team’s failure to make a mark on the big three, Renault‘s return to the sport after buying back the outfit it had previously sold in the wake of the crash-gate saga, clearly isn’t working out as originally planned.
As recently revealed, the team made a £7.8m ($9.5m) loss last year courtesy of an £18.6m ($22.6m) increase in costs, much of this down to an increased headcount and improvements to its Enstone facility.
Costs are set to rise again this year courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo‘s recruitment, court documents from the case involving the Australian and his former manager revealing that he is on $27.5m (£22.3m) a year, making him the third-highest paid driver on the 2019 grid.
Indeed, the Formula Money Sponsorship Database, reveals that in 2018, Renault‘s costs wiped out a 7.6% increase in revenue from higher prize money payments and sponsors.
Meanwhile, only this week the French team was disqualified from the Japanese Grand Prix, thereby increasing the gap to McLaren in the battle to retain fourth in the standings, whilst falling into the clutches of Toro Rosso and Racing Point.
The French company’s return to F1 was largely the work of Carlos Ghosn, who is currently being held in Japan on corruption charges.
In 2017, Ghosn launched his six-year ‘Drive the Future’ strategy, of which the return to F1 was part.
At a time the company’s Q3 global sales are down 4.4%, and revenue down 1.6%, compared to Q3 in 2018, interim chief executive officer, Clotilde Delbos, who has been appointed following Thierry Bollore’s departure, the ‘Drive the Future’ strategy is under review.
In a conference call on Friday, Delbos admitted that the F1 project is one of the aspects of the strategy being looked at.
“I’m not specifically targeting those two activities,” she said, when asked about F1 and the French company’s use of the Alpine brand. “But clearly the review of the ‘Drive the Future’ plan means we put it on the table.
“It’s like a normal process,” she continued, “it’s not a minor review, we’re launching a deep review of the ‘Drive the Future’ plan in order to take into account the new context of the market, the change in usage, mobility, and the current situation of the group.
“Everything can be on the table at some point. This is a deep review of our strategy and plan.”
Asked in Mexico if he is confident Renault will continue in F1, team boss Cyril Abiteboul said: “I can’t tell you that. Until that process is done, I can’t say. It has to be a process. “I’m sorry I don’t have any confirmation to make further comment. Let’s follow the process.
“But let’s be optimistic,” he added, referring to the 2021 rules package, which is thought will include a budget cap and a more equal division of the prize money, something the French manufacturer has been pushing for. “If everything is better than what we have now, I don’t see why we would get to a different position to the one we made in 2015.
“Yes, the market has changed and the sporting results are what they are,” he added. “The most important thing is, can we project ourselves with confidence in that period of time with reasonable results, at a reasonable cost. In my opinion, what we will get out of 2021 measures, we’re going in the right direction to answer these questions positively.”
Asked about the damage caused by such things as the team’s disqualification from the Japanese Grand Prix, he admitted: “It doesn’t help, but I can’t believe that Renault will make a decision based on losing nine points. The little story of a fight between Racing Point and Renault in Suzuka is not going to affect the long-term strategy of Renault in the sport.
“We have been in the sport for forty-two years, and we genuinely believe it adds something to the marketing of the brand and to tell a story regarding technology.
“The only thing it says, this little story, is that it is becoming more and more difficult to develop an innovative solution in Formula One and make use of it. That’s a point, and maybe if there is nothing in it from a technological perspective, we could reconsider.
“As I said, there will be assessment to decide whether or not we sign on those terms, but those terms are better than the ones we have now anyway, so I am confident.”
Check out our Friday gallery from Mexico City, here.