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Renault Determined to Stay

After rumors that Renault might be considering an exit from F1 now that they have achieved their goals of the constructor’s and driver’s championships, CEO Carlos Ghosn has declared their intention to stay for good, according to a report by F1 Racing-live. Which is all very well except that the rumor actually dates from about a year ago and was one of the reasons for Alonso moving to McLaren. Doth the lady protest too much?

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It’s the timing that looks odd. No-one was suggesting that Renault was about to leave and everything is set up for next season with Flavio Briatore remaining in charge and the drivers signed up – not even a hint of an early exit there. Is it possible that Renault wants to avoid the mistake of last year when they left their intentions unclear until it was too late to retain Alonso?

That seems the most likely explanation. Perhaps it is only my cynicism regarding manufacturers’ durability in F1 that leads me to read between the lines. Consider this, for example:

“For Renault, this is an investment – and an investment that aids the growth of the Renault brand and Renault’s products,” said company CEO Carlos Ghosn.

He added that Alonso’s back-to-back crown ‘justifies the investment’ of the Boulogne-Billancourt based French manufacturer.

All very true, although it does remind me that I have seen some criticism recently of Renault’s failure to capitalize on the marketing potential inherent in winning the championships. The problem is really hinted at in that statement that their double win “justifies the investment” they have put into F1. And what if they don’t win the titles for a few years? How can they justify such an enormous expenditure then?

It really doesn’t matter what statements are made now – if success begins to elude the company, the bean counters’ voices will get louder and, sooner or later, management is going to have to listen. No organization can continue to pour money into a project that is providing no benefits in return. Maserati found that out and so did Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Jaguar, Porsche and BRM.

The promise to stay “for good” is not only doubtful, it’s unnecessary. Renault need only to assure us that they are here for another year and we will go away happy. And, if they really want to stay forever, maybe they should be looking at FIAT’s solution to the problem – get a team like Ferrari that lives for racing only, support it with money and technical assistance, and let it win the honors for you.

And the rumors of Nissan’s desire to get involved in F1 are the perfect opportunity for Renault to do just that. Since Renault have a 40% stake in the Japanese company, they could bring Nissan into the game in a joint effort with their team, sharing the costs and the marketing advantages, and gradually allowing the team an independence similar to Ferrari’s. I guess the cars could be called Nissan-Renaults – that way, honor would be satisfied.

The bean counters might get a better night’s sleep, too.

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