In what may very well be the worst-kept secret in Formula One today, Renault’s return to Formula One as a constructor has now been signed, sealed, and delivered. The French manufacturer and Gravity Motorsport S.a.rl, an affiliate of investment group Genii Capital SA, finally put the ink on paper, completing the former’s re-acquisition of the Lotus F1 Team Limited after only three months of negotiations between the two parties.

Details about the team, including its new name, full management structure, sponsorship partners, and driver lineup have yet to be announced. The company said that a full announcement has been scheduled to take place in Paris in February 2016. The only announcements that have been made at this point are for the positions of chairman and managing director. Those roles will be filled up by Jerome Stoll and Cyril Abiteboul, respectively.

Renault’s return to Formula One means that the manufacturer will make its F1 comeback for the first time in five years. It’s last appearance as a full-blown team came in 2010. In the same year, the team was sold to Genii Capital, which renamed it Team Lotus. Renault remained in the sport, but only serving as an engine supplier to a handful of teams, one of which was Team Lotus. The team was competitive in those years, but another Renault-powered team, Red Bull Racing, ended up dominating the sport for four straight years — highlighted by Sebastian Vettel’s four world championship wins.

But, now that it’s back as a full-fledged team, Renault will be returning to a vastly different Formula One climate, one that has been dominated by Mercedes in the past two seasons. The team will have a new set of challenges on its hands, but with the right people in place, it could return with a bang and replicate its form of the 2005 and 2006 seasons when it won its two constructors titles.

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Why it matters

Renault’s return to Formula One as a fully fledged constructor should inject a jolt of intrigue in Formula One that’s been somewhat lacking in the past few years. Oddly enough, the French automaker played a large part in the lack of parity in the sport when it powered Red Rull Racing to four straight world titles. But, now that Mercedes has climbed to top-dog status, other teams are itching to unseat the champs, and Renault could be one of those teams that’s going to have the chops to do it.

Realistically, I don’t see it, at least not yet. Returning to a sport you’ve been absent in from a constructor’s standpoint is going to take some time to get used to. For one, the rules are different now and what worked for the team back then isn’t a guarantee to work this time around. There are also other matters worth considering, one of which is the expected improvement in form by the likes of Ferrari and McLaren. The latter, in particular, had a disastrous 2015 season when it finished second-to-last in the constructor’s title, beating only Massuria-Ferrari, which failed to register a single point throughout the season.

McLaren and Ferrari should be better next season. The other Mercedes-powered teams should also remain competitive so finding a spot for Renault is going to be tricky without knowing any details about the team. I will say that the French company’s return is very much welcome from a fan standpoint. I just hope that its return to form happens sooner than later. It’s about time that somebody - anybody, in fact - makes a good run at Mercedes’ dominance.

Press Release

On Friday 18 December 2015, Groupe Renault and Gravity Motorsport S.a.rl, an affiliate of Genii Capital SA, formally and successfully completed the acquisition by Groupe Renault of a controlling shareholding of Lotus F1 Team Limited.

The new team name, full management structure, team partners and other details will be announced during an event to be held in Paris in February.

In the interim, a new board of directors has been appointed, with Jérôme Stoll as Chairman and Cyril Abiteboul as Managing Director.

Following the signing of a letter of intent by Groupe Renault and Gravity Motorsport S.a.rl on 28 September 2015, the parties entered into the various agreements on 3 December 2015. Since then, all parties involved have been working relentlessly to comply with all of the contractual and legal obligations under the agreements to enable the transaction to successfully complete. The technical teams are making good progress to have the 2016 car ready for testing in Barcelona at the end of February.

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