Renault has sent out mixed signals about its F1 future following the emergency board meeting convened yesterday (Wednesday) in Paris, with the managing director of the racing team insisting that 2010 'has begun already' – but the company's chief executive cautioning that an official announcement will only be made 'before the end of the year'.
The extraordinary reunion was called after rival manufacturer Toyota revealed that it was pulling the plug on its involvement in the top flight with immediate effect, and some surmised that following the reputation-damaging 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal, the loss of both double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso and title sponsor ING and falling car sales as a result of the debilitating global credit crunch, Renault might be swift to follow.
However, in the wake of the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) ruling that dealt the Enstone-based outfit a two-year suspended permanent ban for its Far Eastern indiscretion last year, the parent company insisted that it intended to stay, and as such has signed up to the commercial rights-governing Concorde Agreement that binds all adherents to remain committed to F1 until at least the end of 2012.
What's more, Renault F1 managing director Jean-François Caubet revealed that 'we have already contracted our drivers, had our budget approved and are enrolled in the world championship' [see separate story – click here
] – but still doubts persist, with cynics pointing to the lack of correlation between the high-cost, high-technology world of motor racing and the company's focus on electric and energy-saving technology, and the dent to the budget left by ING's departure, even though watch firm TW Steel has partly filled the financial void.
Whilst BMW-Sauber refugee Robert Kubica has already been signed for 2010, paddock whispers in Abu Dhabi last weekend suggested that nothing is yet set in stone, with serious consideration allegedly being given to withdrawing after Renault suffered its least competitive season in seven years in 2009, finishing a lowly eighth out of ten in the constructors' championship – a far cry from the back-to-back title successes achieved by Alonso in 2005 and 2006.
“You will have to be patient,” chief executive Carlos Ghosn is quoted as having said by Reuters
. “We will make an announcement on our participation in Formula 1 before the end of the year.”
As things stand following the loss of Honda, BMW and Toyota within the space of under twelve months, Renault is one of only three remaining manufacturers in F1, alongside Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari.