The Lotus Renault F1 team has played down suggestions that it could quit the top flight due to money worries, but admits that it could bow out if the proposed 2013 rules are overturned.
Team boss Eric Boullier has insisted that speculation over the team's financial situation was unfounded - and could have been started by predecessor Flavio Briatore, who was present in Monaco at the time the rumours started. However, despite the partnership with Group Lotus and parent company Proton, fears over the team's financial security have lingered since last season, when reports claimed that it had approached Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management group in an effort to receive a commercial payment normally due at the end of the season in order to offset a number of sponsorship deals that hadn't delivered as promised. That request was apparently vetoed by other teams on the grid, but even then Boullier insisted there was no financial problem, and that the team was suffering from a temporary cash-flow issue that was merely delaying development work.
As if to allay similar fears in 2011, Boullier told French sports newspaper l'Equipe
that owner Genii Capital would be prepared to pump funds into the Enstone squad.
"If, in the season, we ever need an extension of the budget, Genii Capital is able to grant it," Boullier insisted, before revealing that a management shake-up was on the cards as the team attempts to refine its operation., "In 2010, we watched the operations at the circuit and did not want to destabilise the team, focusing instead on operating efficiently, but now is the perfect time to ensure we have effective management at the track. We're calm. It has been a transitional period that we have handled remarkably well. We have a sponsor in the form of Group Lotus and solid partners."
Group Lotus also insists that it is in for the long haul, despite the strain of its ongoing legal battle with Tony Fernandes' Team Lotus over naming rights.
"We are even more committed than ever before to our long-term plan within the sport," CEO Dany Bahar claimed, "With regards to our involvement with [Renault], as Lotus we stand united with Genii Capital and have every confidence in the future success [of the team]. People always question the cost but, believe me, if we couldn't afford it, we wouldn't do it."
Another French publication, motoring journal Autohebdo
reported that, contrary to watching every penny, Renault is preparing to invest in a state-of-the-art driver simulator and update its 60 per cent wind tunnel and CFD capability.
All that could be in vain, however, should the FIA perform a U-turn on its proposed rule change ahead of 2013. While some teams, notably Ferrari and Mercedes are publicly opposed to the introduction of supposedly greener four-cylinder turbo engines, the regie
insists that it is in full support, as the rule changes mirrors the technology in use in its road car range.
With the governing body backtracking slightly and agreeing to stage 'consultations' with the sport's stakeholders and possibly rethink the introduction of the change, FIA president Jean Todt confirms that it may be a step too far for Renault.
“When I talk to those responsible at Renault they tell me they will go out of F1 if this new engine does not come in 2013," he told Spain's Diario Sport
, "When I talk to Mercedes and Ferrari they ask me to postpone the introduction for a couple of years. They are not against the rules but want them postponed. So in the coming days, I will keep up the contacts personally to see where we are.
"However, it is [the teams] who proposed the regulations, and the FIA who accepted them. The proposal didn't fall from the sky."