Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has added further fuel to the fire for those who believe the French manufacturer is set to renege on its ongoing commitment to F1, by contending that the sport is not 'going to be very important for anybody, if it doesn't answer some of the concerns that surround [it]'.
Whilst Renault F1 signed up to the commercial rights-governing Concorde Agreement back in the summer– thereby theoretically guaranteeing its presence on the grand prix grid until at least 2012 – Ghosn revealed last month that a final decision about the future of its Enstone-based operation will possibly not be taken until the end of the year.
It has been pointed out that rival car maker Toyota similarly pledged its commitment to the top flight by way of the Concorde Agreement, only to subsequently announce that it was pulling the plug on its F1 involvement with immediate effect – and Honda, BMW and Bridgestone have all become similar big name casualties over the last twelve months as the global credit crunch takes its toll and continues to bite the automotive industry harder than most.
Moreover, Ghosn is known not to be a particular motorsport fan, and it has been noted in particular that the high-tech world of F1 sits ill-at-ease with Renault's increasing eco push on the road car side, as it bids to battle back from falling sales worldwide. The tone of the 55-year-old's comments suggest the end may be nigh.
“F1 is one of the most seen spectacles in the world,” the Brazilian-born businessman told Forbes India
magazine. “It is facing some challenges – challenges on how fair it is and how do you marry F1 with environmental concerns? Can you bring zero emissions through technology? There are lots of questions about F1...
“I don't think it is going to be very important for anybody, if it doesn't answer some of the concerns that surround 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.”
Renault F1 endured a rocky 2009 campaign, with just a sole rostrum finish to its credit courtesy of Fernando Alonso in Singapore and a lowly eighth position in the final constructors' standings – and it ended the season with a suspended ban hanging over its head and having parted company with disgraced former managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds following the highly damaging and much-publicised 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal.
The team has already signed BMW-Sauber refugee and former Canadian Grand Prix-winner Robert Kubica to be its lead driver in 2010 in place of Ferrari-bound double F1 World Champion Alonso, but Mercedes Grand Prix is believed to be holding fire on completing its own driver line-up should the Pole be unexpectedly liberated by a Renault withdrawal.