On the same day as Toyota revealed its withdrawal from F1, and just a day after Bridgestone announced that it would not be renewing its tyre-supply contract post-2010, it has emerged that Renault too is deliberating its future in the sport – as an emergency board meeting has been called in Paris.
According to the BBC
, the purpose of the hastily-convened reunion is to decide whether to honour Renault's commitment to the Concorde Agreement in staying put until at least 2012, remain involved but only as an engine-supplier or, most drastically of all, walk away completely – what many had surmised would happen even before the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal that dragged the French company's name so publicly and negatively through the mud.
Confirmation of the decision is not expected to come today (Wednesday), as president Carlos Ghosn is due to promote the car maker's zero-emissions policy during a special publicity event on Thursday, but should Renault F1 indeed cease to exist, it would become the fourth automotive manufacturer – and fifth major manufacturer in general, including Bridgestone – to pull out in the space of less than a year, after Honda suddenly and unexpectedly pulled the plug on what is now Brawn GP last December, and BMW and Toyota followed suit at the end of the recently-completed campaign.
states that whilst both acting team principal Bob Bell and managing director Jean-François Caubet will be present at the meeting, they will have no say in its outcome – following what has been the Enstone-based outfit's least competitive season at the highest level since 2001, finishing a lowly eighth in the final constructors' standings with a grand total of just 26 points, all scored by double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso.
The campaign has also been dogged by controversy and humiliation, with the loss of title sponsor ING and the departure in disgrace of former managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, both of whom have since been banned from the sport entirely for having ordered Nelsinho Piquet to deliberately crash out of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order to enable team-mate Alonso to triumph in F1's inaugural night race from a disadvantaged grid position following an engine failure in qualifying.
It is not known what would happen to Robert Kubica should Renault walk away, after the highly-rated BMW-Sauber refugee signed to replace the Ferrari-bound Alonso in 2010. The Pole's management is understood to have made contact with McLaren-Mercedes since the signing, with a view to replacing Heikki Kovalainen alongside 2008 F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton at Woking should the man from Kraków suddenly find himself without a drive.