Renault F1 Future Hangs in the Balance

Grand Prix racing’s leading engine manufacturer, Renault, is considering its future in Formula 1. It has a number of options, which range from pulling out all together to building its own car.

The French giant is expected to make to make a decision by its home Grand Prix at Magny-Cours on June 30 as to whether to continue in F1 beyond the end of 1997, when its contracts with Williams and Benetton expire.

Renault is understood to be keen to continue in F1, but it feels it may now need a new challenge. It could be that Renault, winner of the constructors title for the past four years, is worried about diminishing returns. In fact it has produced the best engine in F1 for so long to some extent that it success is taken for granted.

Anti-racing factions at Renault are therefore unlikely to have been impressed by Damon Hill’s criticism of the company after qualifying at the Spanish GP. HE said: “I am not happy with the engines. We need reliability – for which Renault has become famous – and more performance. And it’s frustrating when you don’t make any progress.”

Renault has produced its own car in F1 before, winning 15 Grands Prix from 1977-’83, but not the World Drivers’ Championship, before pulling out after another two winless seasons.

But Renault would be aware that to do so again would be a huge undertaking.

It is believed that if Renault continues solely as an engine supplier it would supply only one team. This is most likely to be Williams, which has been Renault’s partner sine ’89. But either way, Williams – and particularly Benetton, which has used Renault engines since ’95, must be considering potential alternative engine supplies from ’98.

Williams had contact with BMW last year and is perceived in Japan a Honda’s favourite. It is also known to be of great interest to Peugeot, which is where most of Renault’s F1 engineers, with the exception of technical director Bernard Dudot, would be expected to transfer if the company withdrew from F1.

6/6/96 – Autosport

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