There is a lot of trouble out there in the world at the moment and we will have to see if any of it is going to affect the more insular world of Formula 1. Today police raided Renault headquarters and a number of technical offices, wanting to check equipment that might have been designed to cheat emissions tests. Renault said that the there was no evidence of anything of the sort but said that it was cooperating fully with the investigations. The French stock market reacted badly to the news with the Renault share price diving 20 percent before bouncing back to just 10 percent down. The car industry has been under suspicion in recent months following revelations that Volkswagen created systems that deliberately skewed emissions tests. It remains to be seen whether any of this will lead to any actual problems, but if it does it will be a huge embarrassment for the the French government, which owns a significant share of the the company. There has been speculation in recent days that Renault might be looking at dropping Pastor Maldonado, amide rumours that his sponsorship payments from Venezuela’s PDVSA have not appeared on time. This would not be a surprise given the political troubles going on in Venezuela where President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition-controlled National Assembly are at loggerheads over who should control what, following the recent elections. On Tuesday the Supreme Court, which the opposition says is biased towards Maduro, declared the National Assembly null and void after it ignored a ruling that three opposition leaders could not be sworn in because there is an investigation into alleged vote-buying. Without the three the opposition does not the super-majority it needs to remove judges from the Supreme Court and even remove the President himself. While this is going on, Venezuela remains in a state of serious economic crisis with the sinking price of oil undermining the country’s economy.The country gets almost all of its export income from oil but it is now losing money on every barrel because it has high extraction costs. The country needs a barrel at $90 to break even and the price is currently at around $30. In the circumstances it is hard to imagine how PDVSA could be keeping up with its payments to Renault. The word is that the team may call in Kevin Magnussen, although the Dane is also talking to Manor. Joining Renault might not be the best thing to do because the word is that the team will be using a 2015 car, converted to use a Renault engine. Manor on the other hand will have a new car and Mercedes engines.
Meanwhile, there is trouble too in Azerbaijan where the F1 circus is due to make its first appearance in June, on the streets of Baku. The falling price of oil has put pressure on the manat, the country’s currency, leading to a decision by the Azerbaijan Central Bankto stop supporting the manat after going through half of the country’s foreign currency reserves in an attempt to prop up the manat. The currency has fallen more than a third in value as a result, which means that everything will cost 30 percent more for the locals. The result of this has been protests across the country and the arrests of some of the protesters. This may not have any impact on the race fee that Azerbaijan has to pay to the Formula One group, but it may influence the costs involved in staging the race.