Axe hangs over Renault’s F1 team

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Was Abu Dhabi the last F1 race for Renault?
Was Abu Dhabi the last F1 race for Renault?

Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has said the company could close its F1 team at the end of the year.

He told reporters today a decision will be taken before the end of 2009. The team already has Robert Kubica contracted for the 2010 F1 season.

Toyota and BMW have previously confirmed they will not be racing in 2010. If Renault were to leave only Ferrari and Mercedes would remain as car manufacturers active in F1.

Like Toyota, Renault was a signatory to the new Concorde Agreement, committing it to remain in F1 until the end of 2012. The FIA has expressed concern at Toyota’s decision to leave the sport despite having signed the Concorde Agreement.

It also hinted the Max Mosley’s abandoned plans for budget capping could be resurrected by new president Jean Todt:

Toyota?s announcement demonstrates the importance of the original cost-reduction measures set out by the FIA.

There is no sign yet whether a third party might take over the Toyota entry. The slot could be taken by new BMW owners Qadbak.

Should Renault pull out the team could be taken over by another company. The Enstone operation was previously run by Benetton (1986-2001) and before that Toleman (1981-1985).

If history tells us anything about Renault it’s that we can expect them back within a couple of years if they do quit.

They entered as a full constructor in 1977 but withdrew at the end of 1985 having failed to win a championship. They remained an engine supplier to several teams in 1986 before leaving the team for two years and then returning with Williams in 1989.

After many championship wins with Williams and Benetton, Renault left again at the end of 1997. But they returned as an engine supplier to Benetton in 2001 and took over the team the following year.

They’ve had a difficult three years since their back-to-back double championships of 2005-6 with Fernando Alonso. He made a beeline back to the team after a one-year stay at McLaren in 2007. But their triumphant return to form at the end of 2008 has now been tainted by the Singapore scandal, and they had already lost title sponsor ING.

Alonso is now on his way to Ferrari and Kubica is set to take his place – but only if the team commits to F1 for another year. With the Pole potentially back on the driver market, it could lead to a further hold-up in driver signings for 2010.