Renault has announced it will be on the starting grid of the 2016 Formula One season in its own right with a plan “to win – even if it takes some time”.

Formula 1 is a sport that is as interesting to watch off track as on.  You may remember Red Bull managed to win four championships from 2010 to 2013 with Renault power, and all was rosy when they were taking home the trophies. 

But then in 2014 and 2015 Mercedes rose to the fore, sweeping all before them and Red Bull became angry with Renault for not providing a suitably powerful engine.  Yes, the French powerplant was below par, but F1 is a sport that ebbs and flows, nobody remains at the top forever and solid teamwork gets long-term results not short-term dummy spitting.

So now Renault have decided to come back as a constructor in their own right, taking over the Lotus team,  responsible for the complete car and not just the engine, saying “as a full team, Renault will take maximum benefit from its victories. The payback as an engine supplier proved to be limited. “

Which is a coded message for a certain fizzy-drinks supplier. 

After it announced in September that it had signed a letter of intent to buy Lotus F1, Renault, according to Ghosn spent time considering whether it could make a full blown return to Formula One. He said:

“Renault had two options: to come back at 100 percent or leave. After a detailed study, I have decided that Renault will be in Formula 1, starting 2016. The final details supplied by F1’s main stakeholders gave us the confidence to accept this new challenge. Our ambition is to win–even if it will take some time.”

Renault is apparently pushing through its plans to acquire the Lotus F1 Team “in the shortest timeframe possible”. “The principal contracts were signed yesterday on December 3, 2015. The Lotus F1 Team effectively stands out as the best partner. Renault and Lotus F1 have known each other for 15 years and were world champions together in 2005 and 2006.”

Renault has had uninterrupted involvement in Formula 1 for almost 40 years. It has taken part in more than 600 grand prix, claiming 168 race wins, 12 Constructors’ titles and 11 Drivers’ crowns.

Renault also said: “Formula 1 serves to promote awareness of the Renault brand and its image in all its markets across the world. Formula 1 is one of the sports that enjoys the most media coverage worldwide thanks to a following on five continents, particularly in emerging markets. It attracts 450 million television viewers annually and its scope for growth is enormous thanks to opportunities founded on new technologies, social networks, video games, etc. that have yet to be fully exploited.”

That’s a pointed barb at one Mr B Ecclestone’s noted reluctance to embrace the 21st century and properly market the sport to younger people, women and the tech-savvy.  It’s such a shame because F1 has a wonderful story to tell with petrol/electric hybrid powertrains, advanced energy harvesting and tiny 1.5L engines producing stupendous amounts of horsepower.  Indeed, it is likely that this new-tech focus was a reason Renault came back, and it has certainly been a factor for other manufacturers.  For quite a while the VW group was tipped to make a entrance to F1, but with dieselgate that would have been shelved, and indeed the group are scaling back their World Endurance Championship programme, especially after they won it with a Porsche co-driven by Mark Webber.

We can expect more information on Renault’s F1 programme in January, but where this leaves Red Bull is not clear, maybe as a second-fiddle customer?  Who knows, but they brought it on themselves.

It will be good to see one of the sports most historic names back on the grid.  The current Lotus drivers are Romain Grosjean and crash-prone Pastor Maldonado – the latter is thought to be on the grid more due to financial backing than ability, so perhaps with Renault money there may be a change of driver.

We’ll know more in January – “we will provide more detailed information about Renault’s F1 programme ahead of the 2016 championship that begins next March,” Renault said.

UPDATE: Renault will supply engines to Red Bull rebranded as TAG Heuer, and the 2016 car will be called the Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer RB12.  Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said “TAG Heuer and Red Bull are two transcendent brands which have both a passion for racing and a drive to do things differently, and this unique collaboration is further evidence of that”. 


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