Thursday, December 17, 2009

Renault Firms Up Plans for 2010 F1 Season

Photo Credit: Renault F1 Racing

In the midst of still savage climate in auto racing as auto manufacturers continue to struggle for profitability, Formula 1 has experienced 3 major departures through the past two seasons (Honda, BMW and Toyota). Desiring some stability, the FIA took comfort with French auto maker Renault reaffirming its commitment to the ultra exotic open-wheel series for 2010. However, this renewal by Renault to powering the Formula 1 grid came with a concurring announcement changing the nature of their relationship in the sport.

Renault F1, the French auto maker's factory team, will now be majority-owned by a private investment partner entering into 2010. Genii Capital, a Luxembourg-based group known as specialists of new technologies and brand imaging bought what is called a 'large stake' of the Renault F1 operation as the Renault factory looks to getting the best value for their sponsorship as one of the most expensive sports on earth. Genii Capital may also be remembered from earlier this year when they unsuccessfully attempted to buy assets of the bankrupt camera innovator Polaroid. It's believed that the name of the team will continue to be Renault F1 for 2010. Robert Kubica has already been signed to drive in the upcoming Formula 1 season with a second driver still yet to be named.

Buying out Bennetton in 2002 to stake their corporate name on a Formula 1 team, Renault F1 took back-to-back constructor championships in 2005 and 2006 thanks largely to Fernando Alonso's driver crowns.

Coinciding with the sale of a major stake in their namesake Formula 1 team, Renault confirmed that Red Bull Racing will continue to run the French powerplants in 2010. Following Red Bull Racing's best grand prix season with 6 victories and a 2nd place in the manufacturer points standings in 2009, this move seemed like a natural. In fact, going into the new Formula 1 season,
the thriving Formula 1 team has retained the final major piece to enter the 2010 season with essentially the same team as the previous year. In fact, with Brawn GP undergoing a massive corporate reshuffling which includes driver changes and the rebranding as Mercedes Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing could theoretically be heading for a banner year on the 2010 Formula 1 circuit. Having existed solely as an engine supplier in the 1990s, the last F1 customer team to grab a constructors championship was Williams F1 in 1997. Disturbingly though, Renault dropped their official engine support of Formula 1 at the end of that season.

Without making firm plans beyond next year, Renault's planning for the grand prix 2010 season could either be viewed most negatively as a gradual step out of F1, making it the third time Renault withdrew from the sport. However, in a more positive mindset, it is possible that Renault reduced funding (coupled with FIA attempts to cut costs in F1) could provide a better long-term plan for seeing the diamond badge on the grand prix tour.

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