Reports that Renault's F1 team made a substantial financial loss last season will do little to lift speculation that its owners could look to off-load the Enstone operation.
According to Britain's Guardian
newspaper, the team - which runs under the Lotus Renault
F1 banner in 2011 - suffered a £34.3m net reversal last season, having enjoyed a £4.8m post-tax profit the previous year. The report suggests that the exit of several key sponsors, provoked by the 'crashgate' affair that hit the team after the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix, was a key to the poor figures, with the loss of former title backer ING a major blow.
Although lead driver Fernando Alonso
left for Ferrari
at the end of 2009, saving the team in terms of salary, without the Spaniard it was not seen as a potential frontrunner and, when owner Renault
decided to turn in its involvement in the top flight on financial grounds, the attraction to potential sponsors was increased.
Although the French manufacturer remains as engine supplier, and still has its name above the door, the Enstone operation is now owned by Luxembourg-based private equity firm Genii Capital, but remains at the centre of rumours that either title sponsor Lotus or Prodrive's David Richards - who helmed the team in its Benetton guise - could take control [CLICK HERE
The report confirms that team accounts list it as 'a going concern' although 'it is anticipated that the owners will continue to support the operation of the company as an F1 team for the foreseeable future'.
The 2011 team has not enjoyed a smooth season either, with new lead driver Robert Kubica
injured in a pre-season rally accident and replacement Nick Heidfeld
himself ousted in favour of Bruno Senna, while second year driver Vitaly Petrov shoulders the burden of producing results. The squad, which has attempted to fend off suggestions that Senna's promotion from reserve was not financially motivated despite the addition of several sponsors since the Belgian GP, currently lies fifth in the constructors' table, 30 points adrift of closest rival Mercedes. Results have dipped as the year has gone on, with the podiums from Petrov and Heidfeld in rounds one and two nothing but fading memories.