Renault’s involvement in Formula One has been thrown in to further doubt after Carlos Ghosn, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said that options, including an exit from grand prix racing, remained open.
Ghosn was attending the final round of the inaugural Formula E season in Battersea Park, London, where the e.dams Renault team, for which his company provides a technical partnership, had won the teams’ championship.
When asked about Renault’s plans in F1, he said: “Everything is open. We are really reviewing the situation, we have different options. We still have not made a decision but we will make a decision soon.” Asked if those decisions may include leaving F1 he said “all the options are open”.
Having powered Red Bull to four consecutive drivers’ and constructor’s championships between 2010 and 2013, Renault have suffered increasing attacks and poor publicity since engine regulations changed in 2014. Their power unit has been well behind that of Mercedes.
Christian Horner, the head of Red Bull, has expressed his disappointment in Renault’s inability to match their engine rivals and the manufacturer’s future has come increasingly under the spotlight, especially since their contract with Red Bull and Toro Rosso is due to finish at the end of 2016.
Cyril Abiteboul, the managing director of Renault Sport F1, has already said he expects a decision to be made sooner rather than later – before the end of this year – and options include continuing with Red Bull and Toro Rosso or returning as a works team with buyouts of the latter or Lotus or Manor, or exiting the sport completely, which Horner has suggested might be the case were the engine rules not to change.
Ghosn also told Auto Express that it was F1 itself and how it is run that may be key. “It’s not only down to us, it’s down to the organisers. We want to see how the governance of Formula One changes.”
Governance in part that must include Bernie Ecclestone, who has a well-known resistance to social media and made dismissive comments about younger fans. “I don’t know why people want to get to the so-called ‘young generation’,” Ecclestone said last year. “Why do they want to do that? Is it to sell them something? Most of these kids haven’t got any money. I’d rather get to the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash.” Comments that were likely on Ghosn’s mind as he expressed a further commitment to Formula E.
“We are here, we are very happy to be able to be able to contribute and you can expect us to be involved in the future,” he said on the grid in Battersea. “We like what this represents. This is about competition, it is about zero emissions and this is about young people. I am very impressed at the youth of the people who come and cheer for Formula E so you can expect to see us more involved in the future.”
Elsewhere, other lessons were being learned from the Formula E race, the first international motor racing event in the capital since 1972, with Lotus deputy team principal, Federico Gastaldi, arguing that F1 should also look to hosting further street races.
“I think it could be fantastic in F1 to have more street races because it is colourful,” said Gastaldi. “Think of Singapore and Monaco they are great events and attract so many people. Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro could be good races to go to for F1. I see Formula E went to Buenos Aires which is my hometown and that would be fantastic to race there.”
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