Following its September’s signing of a Letter of Intent regarding the potential acquisition of a controlling stake in cash-strapped Lotus F1, French automaker Renault confirmed this week it will proceed with the acquisition and return as a constructor under its own brand in Formula One as early as the 2016 season. The confirmation was made by Renault Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn who said Renault was faced with two options: either fully commit to the sport or leave.
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Given its history in the sport and past performance as a constructor, we’re glad Renault has decided to stay in F1. But it won’t be an easy task especially given the recent problems with Renault’s power unit. Right now, work is continuing on finalizing the terms of the acquisition of Lotus F1, which was previously branded Renault. The principal contracts were signed this week with Gravity Motorsports, an affiliate of investment group Genii Capital which originally bought the team from Renault at the end of the 2009 season and later rebranded it Lotus F1.
Renault stayed on as an engine supplier and saw numerous successes with Red Bull Racing as well as Lotus F1. However, Renault says the payback as an engine supplier proved to be limited, with the return on the investment necessitated by the new hybrid engine regulations starting in the 2014 season as well as the return in terms of image being low. The public spat over poor power unit performance between Red Bull Racing and Renault this season also hasn’t helped.
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The automaker has had uninterrupted involvement in F1 for almost 40 years. In 1977, it revolutionized the sport with the introduction of turbocharging, a technique that soon became the norm in the sport. Various iterations of the team have enjoyed 168 race wins and most recently Renault secured the Drivers’ Championships in 2005 and 2006 thanks to the efforts of Fernando Alonso.
Renault's decision to continue its involvement in F1 is confirmation that it sees motorsport as an essential part of its brand’s identity. In addition, Renault hopes its participation as a constructor will help accelerate road car development, particularly in the fields of electric and hybrid vehicles.
More details on the Renault F1 team’s comeback will be revealed next month.