So Renault wants out?

Renault’s executive committee is meeting today to discuss their future plans for F1. You may recall that the decision to remain in F1 was postponed at the last emergency executive meeting earlier this fall but it now appears that Renault may have made up its mind.

Renault

According to the BBC, L’Equipe says Renault is doing a deal with Dave Richards to acquire the team and participate in F1 as Prodrive. There is little doubt that Prodrive has been angling for a position in F1 for some time and a Prodrive spokesman said:

“We cannot comment on the Renault situation, but it is well known that our intention is to get back into F1. We proved our credentials earlier this year when we had a strong business case for an entry, but having had an engine deal with Mercedes-Benz in place we were not willing to sacrifice our competitiveness.”

The concept is simple really and something we proffered on Podcasts in the past. Renault may want out of F1 as a team but would be willing to remain in the sport as an engine supplier. It’s a good move if they can find a buyer for the team. Some rumors had the team being sold for an exonerated Flavio Briatore to return to but Prodrive seems to be a logical move.

The withdrawal from F1 has legal implications as Renault are signatory to the Concorde Agreement just as Toyota was. The FIA is still seeking its remedies regarding the Toyota withdrawal and Renault would be keen to avoid the legal entanglements if at all possible.

The executive board of Renault would have to approve the sale of the team to Prodrive and the FIA will have to approve the change of ownership as it applies to commercial rights money and a guaranteed position on the 2010 grid. But my question is this:

“What exactly is going on in F1 when teams, knowing they are signatory to the Concorde Agreement until 2012 and that there is a withdrawal penalty in the agreement, are choosing to leave the series? They all signed the Concorde Agreement a few months ago and the economic impact was as grave then as it is now so what has changed?”

Color me reactionary but something doesn’t connect for me on this issue. BMW, Honda, Toyota and Renault all leaving F1. Honda makes some sense to me but the others do not. Something is amiss and while I am willing to concede the fact that the FIA/FOM/FOTA war was brutal and there is little doubt that Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone desperately needed to eliminate the manufacturer power base in F1 by ushering in new privateers; something is still amiss.

They may have succeeded in rendering FOTA powerless by getting them to sign the Concorde Agreement but what exactly is pressing teams who signed the agreement to recant and leave the sport? Renault’s CEO Carlos Ghosn said recently:

“F1 is one of the most-seen spectacles in the world,” he told Forbes India magazine. “It is facing some challenges: Challenges on how fair it is and how do you marry F1 with the environmental concerns. Can you bring zero emission through technology? So there are lots of questions about F1.”

“I notice that in the last year, three car manufacturers have bowed out of F1. Three in one year! That means there are a lot of questions that we need to resolve.”

It was certainly a foreshadow of his thoughts on F1 but could it be the sole reason for the departure? If BMW, Renault, Honda and Toyota want to hang their decision on leaving so they can be more green; I am appalled. I have a new respect for Mercedes and Ferrari if this is the case. Renault’s decision to leave the sport but provide engines, while logical, is even more insulting.

As a fan, I must say that the car manufacturers are seriously damaging their brand equity in my eyes. They were the stalwarts of F1 and the leaders in the series and now they bow out, cower and run from F1 because it’s not green? Bollocks! They run because Ecclestone and Mosley intimidated them with an onslaught of privateers? That’s weak.

I suspect they all feel a changing of the times in that the privateer model may be the only sustainable concept left for F1 at this point in time and that’s even more disheartening. No one likes a good privateer more than I do but we need both privateer and manufacturer in F1.

This sport gets curiouser and curiouser by the day doesn’t it?

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