Renault to consider its F1 future as part of companywide review

MEXICO CITY -- Renault's future involvement in Formula One could be under threat as the French car maker embarks on a companywide strategic review.

Falling revenues and uncertainty following the arrest of former CEO Carlos Ghosn have seen Renault's new leadership commit to a "deep review" of all aspects of the company going forward.

In a teleconference with investors on Friday, Renault's interim CEO, Clotilde Delbos, was asked if the brand's participation in Formula One and its small sports car operation, Alpine, would be part of the review.

"I'm not specifically targeting those two activities. But clearly the review of the 'Drive the Future' plan means we put [it] on the table," she said. "It's like a normal process -- it's not a minor review. We're launching a deep review of the 'Drive the Future' plan in order to take into account the new context of the market, the change in usage, mobility, etc., and the current situation of the group.

"Everything can be on the table at some point. This is a deep review of our strategy and plan."

Renault could conceivably leave F1 at the end of 2020 if it opts not to sign a new commercial agreement with the sport from 2021 onward. The company agreed to a deal with F1 beyond the end of 2020 when it rejoined the sport in 2015, but it related to its role only as an engine manufacturer. With McLaren set to switch to Mercedes in 2021, Renault will have no engine customers after 2020 and, therefore, nothing tying it to the sport if it opts to leave.

Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul said the company's board would spend the coming weeks and months considering its future in the sport after receiving a draft contract for the period from 2021 to 2025 last week. The French team has been among those pushing for fairer financial regulations, a budget cap and changes to the technical regulations to level the field, which are all part of the new regulations planned post 2021.

Asked if he believes Renault will continue in F1, Abiteboul said: "I can't tell you that. Until that process is done, I can't say. It has to be a process.

"I'm sorry I don't have any confirmation to make further comment. Let's follow the process.

"But let's be optimistic. If everything [in the contract] is better than what we have now, I don't see why we would get to a different position to the one we made in 2015 [when Renault returned to F1].

"Yes, the market has changed and the sporting results are what they are. The most important thing is, can we project ourselves with confidence in that period of time with reasonable results, at a reasonable cost. In my opinion, what we will get out of 2021 measures, we're going in the right direction to answer these questions positively."

Renault is primarily in F1 as a marketing activity, but disappointing results have seen it slip further down the order this year and it does not appear to be on target to match its goals of returning to championship success in 2021. What's more, both Renault cars were disqualified from the recent Japanese Grand Prix after a braking system was protested by rivals Racing Point and found to be in breach of F1's sporting regulation.

But Abiteboul is confident the bad recent PR will not impact the board's decision on Renault's future in F1.

"It doesn't help, but I can't believe that Renault will make a decision based on [losing] nine points," Abiteboul said. "The little story of a fight between Racing Point and Renault in Suzuka is not going to affect the long-term strategy of Renault in the sport.

"We have been in the sport for 42 years, and we genuinely believe it adds something to the marketing of the brand and to tell a story regarding technology.

"The only thing it says, this little story, is that it is becoming more and more difficult to develop an innovative solution in Formula One and make use of it. That's a point, and maybe if there is nothing in it from a technological perspective, we could reconsider.

"As I said, there will be assessment to decide whether or not we sign on those terms, but those terms are better than the ones we have now anyway, so I am confident."