F1 »

Renault takeover to bring Villeneuve back into F1?

The latest speculation over Renault's future in F1 hints at a takeover bid by pan-European management organisation Gravity - a move that could sensationally bring 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve back into the field after a three-year absence...
In one of the more bizarre stories of an already extremely bizarre F1 silly season, it has been reported that a company called Gravity may be in negotiations to buy Renault's Enstone-based operation – and with it pave the way for 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve to return to the grand prix grid after more than a three-year absence.

On his regular internet blog, respected F1 journalist Will Buxton has revealed that Luxembourg-based, pan-European management organisation Gravity is interested in taking over Renault's F1 outfit, thereby providing the French manufacturer with an exit route from the top flight after president Carlos Ghosn expressed his opinion that the sport won't 'be very important for anybody if it doesn't answer some of the concerns that surround [it]' [see separate story – click here]. The Brazilian revealed that a final decision about the marque's future will be taken by the end of this year – and in terms of the uncertainty his pronouncement has spawned, the silence is practically deafening.

Clearly confident that the company has the necessary financial wherewithal and expertise to do the job in F1, commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone was believed to be pushing BMW in Gravity's direction prior to the ill-fated deal with Qadbak Investments and subsequently the sale to Peter Sauber. Now, it appears, the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive could be ushering Gravity towards Renault instead.

The rumours arose after former GP2 Series contender and current Superleague Formula racer Ho-Pin Tung received a last-minute call-up to try out for Renault during this week's special F1 young driver test at Jerez in southern Spain. Along with fellow GP2 ace Jérôme D'Ambrosio, Tung is managed by Gravity – and so, of late, is Villeneuve, who partnered the Chinese star in a Gravity Racing International-run Mosler MT900R in this year's Spa 24 Hours.

The French-Canadian knows the Renault F1 set-up from his time spent with the team in late 2004, and has been an increasingly present feature in the grand prix paddock of late, as he eyes a return to the field. Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell claims that Tung's Jerez appearance is in an effort to attract some Chinese backing for Gravity – which should it press ahead with a takeover, would ostensibly do so under the name of Mangrove, a venture capital firm that it owns.

Another factor suggesting there could be something concrete behind the Gravity rumours is that the organisation has recently enlisted the services of the highly-regarded Eric Boullier, long-time DAMS team manager in GP2, International F3000 and A1GP – with many titles having been achieved under his expert guidance. 'Why would Boullier have quit a well-paid and high-profile job unless there was a step up for him,' muses Buxton, 'and where does one step up to from GP2 other than F1..?'

Boullier was initially linked with Renault following erstwhile managing director Flavio Briatore's dramatic fall from grace and resignation over the 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal, and he admitted that there had been 'indirect' contact made – possibly, the grapevine suggests, via Gravity. What price, therefore, Buxton wonders, on a Boullier-led, Gravity-backed ex-Renault operation in F1 2010, with Villeneuve and Robert Kubica on the driving strength and Tung and D'Ambrosio in the test and reserve roles?

Prodrive chairman David Richards is similarly said to be interested in a Renault buy-out – only not until 2011, and should it decide to cut and run sooner than that, the car maker will require a buyer immediately. Another potential suitor is the team's Russian telecommunications sponsor Megafon, which would likely be even more interested should 2009 GP2 Series runner-up Vitaly Petrov find himself promoted to the highest echelon next season – especially as the 25-year-old has two government-backed companies behind him and can reportedly lay his hands on as much as €7-€10 million in terms of backing.

Watch this space, as they say...

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
16.07.2006 Magny Cours, France,  Jacques Villeneuve (CAN), BMW Sauber F1 Team, Portrait - Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11, French Grand Prix, Sunday
27.04.2017 - Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM010
27.04.2017 - Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 Third Driver
27.04.2017 - Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team RS17
27.04.2017 - Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM010
27.04.2017 - Esteban Ocon (FRA) Sahara Force India F1 VJM10 and Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM010
27.04.2017 - Pascal Wehrlein (GER) Sauber C36
27.04.2017 - Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team RS17
27.04.2017 - Esteban Ocon (FRA) Sahara Force India F1 VJM10
27.04.2017 - Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 Third Driver
27.04.2017 - Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 Third Driver
27.04.2017 - Esteban Ocon (FRA) Sahara Force India F1 VJM10
27.04.2017 - Marcus Ericsson (SUE) Sauber C36
27.04.2017 - Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team VF-17
27.04.2017 - Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team VF-17
27.04.2017 - Press conference, Pascal Wehrlein (GER) Sauber C36
27.04.2017 - Press conference, Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB13, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H and Pascal Wehrlein (GER) Sauber C36
27.04.2017 - Press conference, Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W08 and Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.


December 02, 2009 8:22 PM

Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill are underestimated. I'm not saying they were the best drivers ever, but both Hill and Villeneuve had become quite handy drivers by the time they won the championship. Also remember HH Frentzen, celebrated at Jordan, managed to win only 1 race in 97 as Villeneuve's teammate. Just like Button, they might have not been the worthiest of champions, but they were quite ok drivers. I still think he is now too old to be any good in F1 though...

© 1999 - 2017 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.