<
>

Renault closing on Lotus buyout decision

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Renault is close to making a final decision on whether it will set up its own works team by buying the existing Lotus outfit.

Renault's F1 future has been in doubt since the start of the year after its relationship with current customers Red Bull and Toro Rosso became increasingly frayed on the back of poor results. Buying a team and setting up a works outfit has been under consideration for some time and the French manufacturer is hoping to announce its future plans in the second half of the year.

"Nothing is done as of yet, but we are much further down the road and we are much closer to a conclusion and a decision," Renault Sport F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul told ESPN. "We are much clearer on why we want to be in F1 and also we are much clearer on the value of the sport and the sort of cost and budget we think we should allow. We are clear also on the conditions that are required to have a successful involvement in Formula One and what we want to do and what we don't want to do. So, a lot clearer internally, but nothing to express.

"We will have some news in the second half of 2015 and some news on what we will do beyond 2016 because at this point in time our plans are made and fixed for 2016, which is that we have a binding contract with Red Bull and Toro Rosso, which we will be allowing. We are making plans in that respect and start to work on engine parts in that respect."

Renault approached several teams about a takeover, but has been deliberating over the size of the financial burden it is willing to take on.

"We have been in talks with several teams and there is no secret about that," Abiteboul said. "There have been many different types of speculation, one day it's Lotus, one day it's Sauber and the next day it's Toro Rosso. There have been others and there will be others. It's part of the option we are looking at and with Lotus we need to be extremely careful because it's no secret that the team has been struggling financially. When you see a team that is struggling financially, there is what you can see and you cannot see; it's like an iceberg.

"We need to wonder about the collateral damage associated in particular to the people outside of an organisation associated to the financial difficulties. But we still have a lot of respect for Lotus and what they have been doing. They are not in an easy situation; I worked for Caterham and I know what it means to be struggling to be able to participate in Formula One, so we've got a lot of respect. But we need to wonder what will be the right partner team for Renault if - and it's a big if - we make the decision to stay in the sport and do something different from what we have got. But, again, no final decision on that."

Bernie Ecclestone has hinted that a future Renault works team would benefit from additional payments from the commercial rights holder because of the brand's history in the sport, putting it in a stronger position to fight with the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull and Williams. But Abiteboul stressed that a lot of the budget would still come from Renault and potential sponsors.

"As a starting point we need to decide what we want to do and how can we make it work, because if we are in F1 we are here to succeed, it's not just to participate. We have no interest in making up the figures on the grid, and with all due respect to Caterham where I was, we have no interest in doing something like that.

"The only way forward and the only purpose of being in F1 is to be a top team contender. In order to do that we know the type of budget that is needed and we know where we have to find the financial resources. Some could come from the commercial rights holder, but a lot has to come from us as a company, from sponsors and from investors. So one by one we are looking at the different contracts and options, but we are not transferring the burden of our decision just on one person, who could be Bernie."

Renault owned the team currently known as Lotus between 2000 and 2010 before selling a majority stake to current owners Genii Capital. At the time Renault switched its F1 strategy to become an engine supplier and won four consecutive titles in partnership with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013. However, since the introduction of new V6 turbo power units, Renault has fallen off the pace of rivals Mercedes and Ferrari, bringing about the discussions about its future.