In an interesting article from our friends at AUTOSPORT, it appears that Renault is bowing out of Formula 1 as an engine developer and supplier. Earlier reports that Red Bull had asked for early termination of their contract that would allow them to use a different power unit for 2016 may very well be the case but it seems that if correct, it was prompted by Renault’s desire to exit F1 as a supplier of engines.
I’m somewhat confused as to the timing of the announcement but it would seem to this F1 fan that Renault made their intentions clear and Red Bull, along with sister team Toro Rosso, were not merely sending a letter of early termination rather negotiating the termination of their contract with Renault which would seem to have some teeth in it in Red Bull’s favor unless Renault play hardball and do provide power units for the team in 2016 and then end their involvement after the contract expires.
What I still find slightly odd is the comment or swipe that Renault boss Carlos Ghosn took at Red Bull and F1 in general when he said:
“Unfortunately when we were winning championships the Renault name was never mentioned. It was the team that was winning.
“So we started to feel the return on this investment was very weak.
“It was intensified by the fact that when the technology changed and we moved from the V8 engine to the present technology, some of the teams using our engine did not fare well, and the reasons for which they are not performing became the engine.
“So you are in the game that when you perform very well you are never mentioned, and when there is a problem with the team you are the first guy to be pointed [at].
“Are the criticisms fair or unfair? I don’t think it’s a question of being fair or unfair.
“It’s a sport. You can’t just say ‘I lost, but my team-mate was really…’ you know?
“I think it’s a question of sportsmanship. We are expecting, that when we are in a sport working with other people, we win together and we lose together.”
For me this sounds like a convenient scapegoat argument. The only confusion as to who was powering Red Bull’s victories came from Renault themselves by branding their F1 effort as Infiniti instead of Renault.
When Renault was a works team and winning titles with Fernando Alonso, there was no confusion as to who powered the championship-winning performance. When Red Bull won, four years on the trot, we knew it was a Renault effort but the car said Infiniti. If they wanted the name Renault to be front and center, then they should have made it so. How is that Red Bull’s fault?
As to winning and losing as a team, all I can offer is my opinion that Renault were one of the teams that threatened to leave the sport if it didn’t move to turbo hybrid format along with Mercedes. They missed the nail with their hammer and now want to complain that Red Bull has been ill-tempered in the press.
Fact is, Renault were delivering Red Bull their first defeats in four years and to be fair, Red Bull did bite their lip for much of 2014 publicly at least. It wasn’t until Renault decided not to spend engine development tokens and continued to promise fixes to their power unit that Red Bull lost patience.
A team like Red Bull have big resources and to be stymied by an ill-mannered power unit just isn’t in their playbook. One can see that eventual outcome in McLaren should Honda fail to turn around their deficit performance. These teams are used to running up front and have the budgets to ensure they do but a power unit holding them back is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s not like Manor complaining about their Ferrari engine as the team doesn’t have the resources to run at the sharp end of the grid…Red Bull does.
I’m frustrated with Renault because they are better than this. Tucking their tail and running away from a problem they themselves championed and threatened to leave the sport over is really in poor form in my book. This leaves F1 with two power unit manufacturers and that simply isn’t enough.
The FIA will need to take a long, hard look at these hybrid power units if it wants to remain a profitable series. Ask yourself if you’re ready for a bunch of Ferrari-powered cars to fight a bunch of Mercedes-powered cars. Sure, I left out Honda because they supply one team at this point and they’re running at the back of the grid.
If the increase in power unit supply costs has ballooned from Seven million Pounds to twenty million and it is bankrupting teams and now we are left with only two decent engine suppliers as Honda tries to find its sea legs, the sport has got to ditch these engines, this exercise in sustainability is killing this sport.
I’m sorry, I understand how cool these new power units are and the tech involved but if it kills the sport or damages it beyond reproach, then I am not a fan. In my mind this is one of the biggest missteps in F1 history and in time I believe it will be judges as such.
Now, before I get too wacky here, if Renault is positioning itself to enter F1 as a full works team by buying Lotus F1, there is some redemption here and perhaps that plays more into the type of involvement they feel is worth their investment. It still leaves a sour taste in my mouth but far less than if they just pack their marbles and chalk up and go home. That still could happen but they feel they deserve an extra historic team payment like Ferrari gets.
If F1 does not give Renault that historic status, the company could simply leave the sport. It could be a bargaining chip they are playing but that’s not wise given F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s track record of how he deals with and feels about threats. He’s walked away from much bigger threats.
It is entirely possible I am misunderstanding the point of the story but based upon what I am reading, Red Bull and Renault are negotiating their departure as a supplier to the team because Renault are getting out of the engine supply business altogether. Perhaps they will continue as a full works team but until then, we hold our collective breaths. I am a fan of Renault as a works team and I truly hope they take that route as I believe F1 needs strong French involvement and a French Grand Prix. There are too many great people in that program to call it a day and go home.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT