Renault Completes Lotus F1 Team Takeover
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.