Renault’s future in Formula 1 is no more uncertain than that of reigning champions Mercedes, Cyril Abiteboul says.
When the French manufacturer relaunched their works team in 2016, they embarked on a period of quick growth from the back of the grid to finishing ‘best of the rest’ in 2018.
Last year, however, saw that progress stall despite the big-money signing of Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull, and after McLaren opted to revive their historic engine partnership with Mercedes from 2021, it has left Renault effectively free to pull the plug on their F1 project, something which is also under review by CEO Clotilde Delbos.
“We have been in F1 for 42 years in some shape or form,” Abteboul told Autocar.
“I accept our lack of consistency, plus there have been some statements and changes in management. I get all of that.
“But the reality is we’re well established with two factories [Enstone and Viry Châtillon], we’re now a group of 1200 people and we’re well advanced, not only for this year but into next.
“The new Concorde [Agreement] is progressing in the right direction and we’ve got a set of regulations which are very positive for us. Directionally, it’s all good.”
It has been asked if Renault is financially committed enough to F1 to ever return to their heights of 2005-06, particularly as it’s doubtful they will spend to the permitted $175m under the new budget cap for 2021.
And with the global economy taking a battering from the coronavirus pandemic and the auto industry switching more to electric cars, the viability of competing in the sport for manufacturers is also now being questioned.
“I do accept we are part of an automotive industry that is shaking, and that is also true for Renault,” Abiteboul acknowledges.
“But are we really struggling more than [Mercedes parent firm] Daimler? I’m not sure.
“The value is here already and will be only better in the future. It’s down to us to crystallise our potential, starting with our performance.
“If our performance was better, we would have to respond to fewer questions of this type.”
For any manufacturer considering F1, there is also the potential reputation damage that comes with losing out to competitors.
But Renault, who are the only major carmaker not competing at the front of the grid, still believe their results deserve credit.
“It’s a risk if you aren’t capable of performing at the appropriate level – a huge risk,” Abiteboul said.
“Already being in F1, we have critics that we weren’t able to fight for P4 last year, which is what I believe we will be doing this year, but P4 is quite an achievement.
“There are a number of brands, including the most established that are extremely well-financed, that don’t even dare go into F1 because of the risk associated.”