Renault sniffing around

The latest whisper is that Renault is pushing ahead with a project to buy an existing F1, in order to get a better return on its investment in F1. Since the French manufacturer gave away its  F1 team in 2009 and fled the sport, red-faced after being caught with its trousers around its ankles over the race-fixing disgrace the previous year, the Company has not enjoyed much publicity, despite its successful engines. The success has been sucked up by Red Bull and Renault’s sister brand Infiniti and Renault barely gets a mention when a Red Bull wins a race. This makes no sense at all. There was a plan a year or so ago to sell part of Renault Sport F1 to Nissan and share the engines and the technology but that was blocked, despite being very much in the style of Renault boss Carlos Ghosn’s management. The obvious choice would be to buy Red Bull Racing but there is no sign that this is for sale, although a deal for three years of free publicity for The Austrian firm might convince Dietrich Mateschitz to go along with the plan. In any case he has a second team in Scuderia Toro Rosso and could keep a presence that way, at a fraction of the cost. Lotus is an option but that would require some serious rebuilding, while Force India and Sauber are not really seen as serious options. From what I hear Ghosn has given the go ahead for Renault to go shopping but we will have to see what comes back in the bag…

72 thoughts on “Renault sniffing around

  1. Why do these manufacturers GIVE these teams away, often subsidizing operations as Honda and Renault did for a period only to return? Were the the savings of stepping away briefly that sizable and worthwhile only to return to a 2nd rate ground level operation? Surprised they’re back so soon.

  2. I think Sauber would be a good option, it has a good corporate and sporting history of working with manufacturers, not sure but I would say the team does not have many long term commercial contracts which would allow Renault to implement a commercial plan of their choice from the outset……..good news for F1

  3. It does beg the question why a little rescue bid for Caterham didn’t happen! Renault engines and a reasonable factory and ready made staff. Yes this year would have been a near write off but they could have spent big on the 2016 design.

    Torro Rosso might be an option instead of RBR. Otherwise its a fresh new entrant if Sauber, Lotus and Force India are non starters (Williams would never sell)

    1. I think last summers events showed there were a number of inter related companies and it would be difficult to ascertain what assets and debts you were buying.

  4. If this is true why did n’t Renault keep Caterham going?
    And build from there….
    I know Caterham had a lot of debt but Renault were/are a creditor so the cost would of been somewhat reduced.

    Or find a deal with Lotus to make them carry on with Renault engines?
    And invest into the team.

    Cannot help thinking Red Bull would opposed to both the above and especially the 2nd option.

    I know that Red Bull are not an engine builder but I have wondered how seriously they looked at building there own engine last year. Could this be a spur for Renault to have their own team?

      1. A bit too cryptic for me Joe …. but I guess it could apply to all 3.
        Purchasing of Caterham…
        Investing into Lotus last year.
        Red Bull making there own engine.

        Personally if Renault are serous (very good news if true) then I would say it because they think Red Bull are maybe seriously in looking to make their own engine. Maybe with help for another engine manufacture currently outside the sport…. just my thought on it, nothing more.

  5. Renault have indeed had the sorest deal of anyone with a big interest in F1, indeed a commendable loyalty to F1, and I gave up trying to make sense of it a long time ago.

    My guess was that, smarting from the scandal, they looked aside, and before they knew it were being monopolized by Mateschitz and brain phased by him. I think they didn’t like him much, hence stood even further away, with the half baked Infiniti branding. I think that is a reflection of Renault’s dislike of Mateshitz as much as anything else.

    Yet there’s no sign of Renault quitting at all. (Almost amazingly, considering how little they got out of recent years, and how much thanks even at that!) So I guess it’s logical they have to try to control their destiny again. I also think that if anyone can make a deal with assets lying about right now, it is someone with existing investment in F1, not a newcomer. They could make a interesting hand to play, if they spent a little, about now.

    As for Mateschitz thinking three years branding is worth what he sunk into RBR, ha har har, he knows better than that. He pushed _Renault *out, so getting their share of the pie! No, he won’t deal reasonably.

    1. Carlos Ghosn single handily refocused Nissan from a “totally bankrupt and dead in the water” manufacturer after he took over in 99 (do you remember those times ? ) with stringent cuts and then the Electric Leaf whilst co running Renault. Perhaps, you should investigate some history for his business acumen as it hardly seems the career of an “Egomaniac”

      1. Nissan was always going to recover; they had tremendous capabilities to leverage. The company was in a cyclical product downturn, admittedly of their making.
        Renault continues a mess and has consistently missed Ghosn’s loudly trumpeted financial targets. He hangs onto the leadership positions at both companies to feed his ego, not because it is good for management, leadership or governance.
        Renault’s equity value is almost 100% attributable to the equity stake in Nissan, arguably because Renault equity is worth “almost nothing”. Ghosn has been a failure at Renault. His ego is chasing away great executives to competitors, e.g. Carlos Tavares to PSA

        1. And Renault investing in the current F1 business model is patently absurd. Any money spent on F1 by a mass market brand such as Renault is pure value destruction. Nobody is buying Renault appliance-vehicles, e.g. europcar?, because of Renault “power units” in F1.
          Ghosn’s interest in Formula One is based on his desire to hang out at Monaco, Suzuka and Singapore.

    2. Well, par for the course if one hears driver comments….just read that Lewis Hamilton didn’t want the #1 this year as he says it is ” irrelevant “?? So what was he racing in F1 for last year?? The # 1 is the goal and carries prestige and honour and history…..however our Lewis says it is of no consequence to him as ” Schumacher & Vettel and others have had the #1, but no one has had the #44 “…..who is he kidding and why do some drivers have no real interest in motor racing anymore? Answers on a postcard please, and I for one, sincerely hope Rosberg wins this year and wears the #1 with pride in 2016! And whilst I’ve always thought him a brilliant talent, I have to say that stupid comments such as those, are why Lewis does not stir the heart of enthusiasts, while others do….I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams that Gilles or Ayrton would ever have thought for a single second, that the #1 would be of no consequence to either of them…..just shows I guess that class is permanent and that some people have it while others only have their ego.

      1. I think you’ve completely missed the point in favour of prejudice there.

        Drivers have been given permanent numbers and want to keep the value that number has to their brand. It works that way in other series, why not F1?

        To say Hamilton doesn’t have an interest in F1 is preposterous. It’s about the only thing he cares about, just ask his ex.

        It shouldn’t matter what a person says outside the car. Hell Kimi is popular and hardly says a word. Vettel is great in front of camera yet unpopular with a lot of F1 fans. What matters is surely the racing and the personality behind the wheel at 200mph.

        1. Martin UK, for your benefit, and for that of the others here who prefer the WCD not to have the #1 on their car, having personal numbers is just another downturn in the prestige of F1, the series that was once Gran Prix racing and which is now more akin to NASCAR. Now if you like the OK magazine life, and Minor Celebrity TV, then having personal race numbers probably fits to a tee….however if you prefer to follow a sport with history and dignity, and a hundred years plus of amazing battles and grievous losses, then like me, I would think that the #1 would have a meaning for you that should be obvious. What is the point of racing to win the #44 or the #16 or #20? Some numbers such as #27 & #5 have real resonance but others have none and prejudice doesn’t have anything to do with that. Come to that but why is it that prejudice is always flagged when anyone criticises LH?? I would say that from the outside, LH’s dismissive attitude to the #1 says more about his lack of interest in F1 & history than it does about a more selfish approach to just winning and enhancing a financial brand….now I’ve no problem with people making money, good on them, but I do have a problem with any F1 driver who cannot see why #1 is a part of the whole experience of the sport and the reason to win is to hold that number. To denigrate the number is spitting in the face of history, and the references made to Schumacher & Vettel, are particularly interesting as the former holds 5 more titles and 58 or so more wins than LH, and the latter holds 2 more titles than him. So the idea would seem to be more ego based than anything, otherwise why make an issue out of the other holders, as in ” well anyone can have #1 “, that just seems childish to me…sorry but I just see things as I find them.

      2. I for one, have no interest at all in what their numbers are- it seems totally irrelevent to me. If you win then it’s your name, not your number that goes down in the history books. Lewis has an attachment to #44- he even has it tatooed on him! So why one earth would it want to change it? The #1 means nothing and #44 means something- why are you surprised at what number he wants to keep!

      3. At a guess, I’d say because he became WDC with his personal number and so has become attached to it, and also he had #1 in 2009, and that year was not the smoothest sailing for him. Most racing drivers are as superstitious as any other sportsmen, i.e. very.

      4. Not sure what Lewis has to do with this Damian or did you just want to have a dig at him? 🙂 Since you mention numbers I guess what he says makes sense since they changed the system. When “Gilles and Aryton” were driving the drivers were allocated a number each season roughly based on last seasons results. The lower the number the more prestigious, no 1 was the holy grail. Now drivers get a number for their whole career. So of course it’s less relevant and 1 is not so iconic. Nothing to see here then.

      5. For those who aren’t aware LH has chosen and prefers 44 because it’s the number he started with in karting and had it through most of his karting career. He relates it to his family. And no, I’m not an LH geek, it was, all for the reading, on Autosport last week. Smiley for frown?

    3. I don’t get why certain chiefs are so vilified. Is it simply because no other board member names are recalled? Another regular here, whose opinion I tend to agree with, has it in for FIAT’s boss, in pretty rude terms that are so personal I wonder the connection, or cause and effect. CEOs are rarely single handedly doing the “nasty” things. In fact they almost never have their sole name to the hard decisions like layoffs. No, they are sure to never be the only one responsible for that. But, they are pretty much able to do positive things of their own initiative. Committees, and hence boards, and therefore excluding groups of lower execs, rarely if ever can agree, let alone figure out a positive direction for a company. If you want to call a CEO two faced, for the way they necessarily are obliged to operate, then fine. That’s the world they must accept to be able to perform adequately. But if there’s to be actual criticism, why is it so rarely specific enough another observer can understand the upset?

  6. As Joe brings up that topic, who can imagine a race-fix scandal in horse racing, for example, where only the jockey [!] is unaware of the sting, and, he gets to keep the win and proceeds, while the conspirators are [for a short time] cold shouldered, then welcomed back.
    Like a bank heist were the gang are caught, but the judge rules that the guy who ends up with the loot gets to keep it ! Not even Edward G Robinson would take seriously a script like that.
    So, just saying, it is not only the finance issues, etc, that cause the malaise, or have turned some audiences off F1, is it?

  7. As regards to Red Bull, I suppose the question is whether it will take another year of them not winning everything for Mateschitz to grow tired of them and sell up, or whether last year was enough. By the same token, I doubt he would be interested in retaining a presence with a (sorry for the expression) journeyman team like TR, seems to me he likes winning, or whining about not winning. He probably would want to sell part of Toro Rosso to Renault to fashion it into some sort of hybrid team (Taureau Rouge?) that would give Renault some presence, but would also keep the Red Bull “conveyor belt” idea alive. But I doubt Renault would go along with that.

    Since one would expect Renault to be after the prestige of F1, they might be best advised to wait until Mateschitz sells the lot and get a well funded and well organised team. Other than that, there really do not seem to be many options, especially since every team bar Red Bull has emphatically turned their back on the Renault power unit.

  8. Joe, if Renault do become a factory team again, do you think Red Bull would tolerate being a customer team? Where could they go for a works deal? Surely, now more than ever, only a works team is capable of winning the WCC.

      1. Well, quite. It’s an intriguing turn of events. Red Bull could find themselves caught out. Are Red Bull(not Horner) happy to coast on past success and become a mid-field team. Would they try and lure Honda from McLaren? Would they just take the opportunity to sell up and consider the experiment a success. Make their own engines? So many variables and so long to wait for answers. Oh, well, Australia soon…

      2. It wouldn’t be a works set up but didn’t Honda state they wanted to supply more than one team in the future? Yasuhisa Arai also described McLaren as “a customer” and that Honda was open to supplying more teams in 2016. Based on the above, this suggests any additional team would have parity with McLaren (which seems plausible given Honda’s fair minded approach).

          1. Infiniti?

            I mean… if anyone had said that to start with…

            Just VW don’t have any ugly duckling brands or step sibling marques to toy with, that i’m aware of. The new regs as they originally were intended, were intended to suit VW’s interests, just didn’t turn out that way. I sometimes wonder if Bernie’s hankering after yet more changes isn’t a try at opening up the discussion again, but i’m putting zero store in that pixie dust idea at least until something very very strange but real happens.

            there’s the problem of finding Renault a temporary name to run as, meanwhile, also, so it may seem . . .

      3. I wonder if Toyota would consider re-entry as a PU supplier. They have a huge investment in hybrid road cars and the facilities to build engines. I’m wondering how close the WEC and F1 engine specs. are these days?

  9. Slightly off topic Joe but do you know what (if anything) is happening with the Romanian team that is meant to come in next year?

  10. Why not just buy the assets of Caterham (better than buying as a going concern if a company like Caterham was in any normal industry), use a small design team to work toward the next reg change and put a couple of the really good drivers who are kept out of F1 due to the ‘pay’ crowd to do as much tesing as they like (I assume there woould be no restrictions). Then use their bargaining power to do some deal to ‘reverse takeover’ the Red Bull or Torro Rosso team while keeping the Red Bull livery etc.. After all, Renault has the bargaining power as they could enter by buying one of several other teams and relegate Red Bull to a less competitive customer status but presumably would also like to have the Red Bull marketing money on board, while absent any new engine manufacturer Red Bull could only hope to be a customer team from that point on.

  11. Surely Lotus would be the logical choice, race winners in 2013 and they get their old team back. I wouldn’t have thought the cost of rebuilding would outweigh the difference in purchase price between Red Bull and the Enstone squad.

  12. The Gospel according to Ron Dennis is unless you are the factory team, as McLaren is today with Honda, but wasn’t last year with Mercedes, you don’t stand a chance. Regarding Infinati, I never understood why they put that name on the cam covers to begin with? Okay, Renault owns them, but if Infinati wants a F1 engine, they should make them on their own.Renault puts all the money, blood, sweat, and tears into it, it should be a Renault. If they did that, all of Red Bull’s publicity would be Renault’s as well. If they had their names on Red Bull’s car, they wouldn’t be shopping for a team. Talk about spending money!

  13. Wasn’t Lotus /Genii on life support waiting for investment that did not materialize? They probably still owe Renault money from the original takeover. One would semi expect reacquisition of the ex- Renault team and all it’s relatively recent former Renault ties.

  14. I would have thought Sauber would be a tempting target..

    Their Toet designed windtunnel,while not regarded as well as the Toyota facility is better than the Toet designed Ferrari windtunnel (after de Montezemelo Art Deco’d its plans) .
    Their CFD computer Albert 3 is uptodate. Good Facilitys…Not too too Far away from Viry. Get more of the right people in there.

  15. Joe- thank you for the blog. Do you have the backstory behind the Infiniti commercial deal? I’ve always found it puzzling that Renault allowed such an arrangement, which has clearly shot themselves in the foot commercially I’d say.
    Aside from that, wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper for them to buy the deal out from Infiniti- or if they are in fact “sister” companies, just switch the branding- and plaster Renault on the side pods of RBR?

      1. What does the market research say as to Infinity’s value from the deal? I always get the feeling that whilst it raises awareness, it doesn’t have much depth to it in the same way that say Shell gets out of Ferrari.

      2. It always seems incongruous that the Red Bull says Infiniti on it and the car with Red Bull on the side is not a Red Bull. If ever a brand wanted to confuse the punters…..

        Renault seem to have been royally stuffed in the deal.

  16. My question being ;

    Ghosn’s giving permission to go shopping ? With what ? A Wing and a Prayer and a dose of Magic Fairy dust ? Fact is anyone following the automotive business news knows Renault/Nissan/Infiniti is and has been in the financial weeds going on the last ten years . Infiniti is all but hopeless . Nissans sales have been dropping like a stone . And Renault ? Hey.. they’re French … need more be said ?

    Honestly Joe … these Renault ‘ rumors ‘ seem about as plausible as Marchionne’s most recent bit of Madness when it come to F1

    That being his most recent claims to the worldwide automotive business press that Alfa Romeo will be back on the grid .

    1. Toro Rosso + rebadged Ferrari engines. Easy and cheapish. Not necessarily value for money, mind…

    2. You sure about this GS? I’ve read of record sales for Nissan in ’14 in the US and elsewhere? Of course, numbers can be manipulated. I hope to see Renault return as a manufacturer.

    3. Yes, agreed, and who is going to rescue Peugot? Stupid EU rules do not allow a member country to subsidise a company, though France seems to pay little attention to them, pity we do not follow suit.

      VW profits down too!

  17. I’ve seen a suggestion elsewhere that Toro Rosso might be a good acquisition target for Renault. Apparently it is solvent, and has no debts, not to mention it already having a Renault engine deal in place.

    I gather it is not a member of the F1 Strategy group either, which has been suggested might make it more attractive to Renault.

    It does, of course, still assume that the existing owner would be willing to sell…

  18. When you start looking at the cards…apart from potentially Red Bull…is there anyone they would even consider beyond Enstone?

  19. Renault coming back in makes perfect sense, in reality as the Engine Manufacturers are part of the biggest manufacturing and sales group in the world therefore they should be driving all technology in these times of massive changes which will affect their businesses over the coming years plus the technology can help the business diversify into other areas.

    In Sportscars – Audi / Porsche / Toyota / are all there to learn from the technological changes which can and will be transferred to Production Motor Vehicles (Nissan are there as well but they are playing with their radical LMP1 car this year) – Engine Manufacturers obviously do control all aspects of their own F1 engines, therefore why would an Engine Manufacturer want to give away publicity to a small team of racing personnel (ie Williams) when their Operations are Worldwide and involve $ Billions and multiple Car Companies – The stakes are too big now for an Car/Engine manufacturer to NOT want all that technology or publicity for themselves over a relatively small team who just make the chassis and go racing, (or be held over a barrel by a soft drinks Co etc). …….. It’s a bit like the understanding of Porsche or Audi (VAG) winning and the team of Joest has always been winning in the Racing support role whereas in F1 it’s normally been the reverse. ……. and taking it to the next step in the future the bottom line is …. Money Talks, therefore these huge Multi $Billion Corporations could easily manoeuvre a take over when the old man naturally departs, that just seems like normal growth of power of the Multi-Nationals or Cartel (Pun !) …..

    Now, whereas FIA / FOM can affect all the publicity of the Multi-Nationals on it’s own whim ….it suddenly makes sense for CVC power to be swallowed by the Manufactures in an unknown buy-off and get rid of the Amateur running of this business and it’s publicity and the Manufacturers run it how they want to run it with professionals in charge. ( Of course, that probably means more about Sales and selling vehicles than allowing a white haired 84 yr old to keep them over a barrel for money , advertising, well everything ) Sport is great it keeps the people interested but of course, the objective is to keep the factories turning which keeps the $ churning ) and really the Manufacturers don’t need CVC or the FIA as the Manufacturers could start another Series themselves and within a year the name F1 would be dead.)

    I suppose if we were to discuss with the Manufacturers where maximum publicity and a push for a passionate populace and vehicle demand we’d have to take into account emerging markets + expected fuel prices + changing fuel or electric cars etc + expected or continued rich Nations + increasing popularity of NOT owning vehicles in the inner City etc, etc etc etc – but at the end of the day …… a Motor Manufacturer takes all that into consideration for the next 20 years ……. The Sport and BE / FOM / FIA and CVC can barely operate looking one or two years ahead and only has it’s own interests at heart. therefore I suppose we should expect the Commercial Car Manufacturers to be looking to expand sales in India / China / Brazil / Russia etc etc etc but USA is still massively rich in comparison to all the other Nations.

    So with (maybe) more Manufacturers Commercial aspect creeping more predominately into F1 ( ie McLaren have made decent profits from it’s Steering wheel display + ATLAS Data Systems etc ( is this a 2 way street with Honda ? Is McLaren now Corporate? ) …… Manufacturers will eventually call for races where they want them and possibly closer to the people and less exclusive ….. circuits would possibly be moved to closer to the populace (therefore Inner City Races easily attended and affordable as its a Manufacturer big sell ) attracting the maximum crowds and really making a nation passionate for the race. – as opposed to very expensive GP’s in the middle of nowhere on incredibly safe tracks where you can see nothing and the cars are gone in a milli-second and exclusive costs just for watching F1 on TV. F1 would become less exclusive as Manufacturers want to you to buy their cars not watch the drivers and the Sport becomes secondary. It’s the simple marketing which Multi – $ Billion Multi National Corporations have to impose ……. therefore Carlos Ghosn as CEO’s of the 4th biggest Car group of 450,000 workers at Renault / Nissan and now also Chairman at AvtoVAZ – maybe he sees it plain as day, the writing on the wall for the incorporation of the once exclusive small F1 Teams and their exclusive knowledge, development, and sales power into the Corporate workforce. How that shakes out for races and smaller teams who knows ….. I suppose we’ll have to wait for Bernie to pop his clogs.

  20. Wouldn’t Williams be a good bet Joe?

    Their facilities are up there with the best, and whilst short term they won’t want to lose the Merc engine, long term, if no one else is going to come in to become a works supplier the best they’ll be able to manage is the odd win when the works Benz’s slip up. It’s the only way they can get back to championship’s.

    Also from a Renault point of view you can leave it to Sir Frank and Claire to run, so not get too involved in the day to day running of the team (as I believe they did in 2005-2006 with enstone), but not have the liability of a Flavio running it.

    1. or at least play Mateschitz against the possibility of Williams or Lotus as Mateschitz will likely want the earth for RBR.

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