Renault F1 team returns in 2016

Published: 04 December 2015

► Renault buys out Lotus F1
► Official Renault F1 team for 2016
► Last raced as a factory team in 2010 

Renault has confirmed it will field an official factory team in Formula 1 for the 2016 season.

Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn has announced Renault will complete a takeover of the Lotus F1 team, and return to the Formula 1 frontline as a team in its own right. While Renault last raced as a team in 2010, in more recent years it has remained in F1 as an engine supplier to multiple teams.

‘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,’ said Ghosn. ‘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.’

Principal contracts were signed yesterday on 3 December 2015, and Renault is now working on finalising the acquisition of the Lotus team ‘in the shortest timeframe possible’ to prepare for the 2016 season.

Despite winning multiple world championships as a supplier to the Red Bull, ‘the payback as an engine supplier proved to be limited,’ says Renault in an accompanying statement. ‘The return on the investment necessitated by the new engine regulations and the return in terms of image were low.’

Negotiations with the Lotus team have been ongoing throughout the year; read CAR’s original story from September 2015 below:

Renault signs letter of intent to buy out Lotus F1 team

Rumour has been rife for some time that Renault intends to return to Formula 1 as an official factory team in 2016. Today, a return to the F1 frontline for La Regie has been all but confirmed as the Renault Group has announced it has signed a letter of intent with the current owners of Lotus F1 to buy a controlling stake in the team.

Renault last competed in F1 as a factory entry between 2002 and 2010, with Fernando Alonso winning both of his world titles driving for the team. After selling its stake in the team (which then, ironically, became Lotus F1 – the team it’s now buying back) the French manufacturer has continued as an engine supplier to multiple teams, in 2015 providing powerplants for the Red Bull team and its satellite Toro Rosso outfit.

Things have turned a little rocky recently however, with the Red Bull partnership annulled one year early by mutual consent, following public criticism of Renault’s performance by the team. That leaves Renault without a place at the F1 table at season end – unless the Lotus takeover deal comes to fruition.

Where does the Lotus connection come in?

Lotus F1 is currently on tricky ground financially, in the red with HMRC to the tune of millions of pounds and suffering the indignity of equipment being impounded at the Spa circuit earlier this season amid further financial disputes. A takeover by Renault is a lifeline which could rescue the team’s future.

Today’s statement can be read in full below:

‘Renault Group and Gravity Motorsports S.a.r.l., an affiliate of Genii Capital SA, are pleased to announce the signature of a Letter of Intent regarding the potential acquisition by Renault of a controlling stake in Lotus F1 Team Ltd.

‘The signature of this Letter of Intent marks Renault’s first step towards the project of a Renault Formula 1 team from the 2016 racing season thereby extending 38 years of commitment of the brand to world’s premier motorsport championship series.

‘Renault Group and Gravity will work together in the coming weeks to eventually turn this initial undertaking into a definitive transaction provided all terms and conditions are met between them and other interested parties.’

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer