Despite previous fears over its future in the sport, Renault has welcomed rule changes set to shake up Formula 1 from 2021, with the works team saying the changes offer “significant opportunities for a team like ours”.
With significant aerodynamic and sporting changes set to spice up F1, the French car manufacturer will be the only power unit manufacturer in the sport from 2021 without a customer beyond the works team, with McLaren reverting back to Mercedes units.
Since its rebirth in 2016, Renault has been a midfield team with ambitions to rebuild itself back into championship contenders by 2021. However, despite signing on Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull until the end of 2020, Renault’s progress has stuttered in 2019.
In a major frustration for Renault, current customer team McLaren holds a firm grip on fourth in the constructors’ standings with two races remaining.
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Prior to last weekend’s United States Grand Prix, where Ricciardo finished ahead of both McLarens, the Australian admitted Renault will struggle to catch their closest rivals as the current season winds down.
Later reports from F1-Insider suggested that Renault could make a dramatic U-turn and pull out of F1, and Red Bull chief adviser Helmet Marko slammed the door on a Ricciardo return should he exit Renault early, as inconceivable as it may seem.
Last month, Renault admitted its future in F1 will be considered as part of a major company strategic “deep review”. However, in a clear indication of a need to improve, Renault has recruited the experienced Pat Fry to lead the team’s technical department from 2020, with former Ferrari and Williams aero chief Dirk de Beer also joining the team. James Rodgers will also be promoted to a new position of chief aerodynamicist.
The review, according to interim CEO Clotilde Delbos, wasn’t targeting Renault’s F1 programme – but she conceded the company’s participation in F1 beyond the 2020 season will fall under the spotlight under the company’s ‘Drive the Future’ blueprint.
A fall in revenue, and the disruption caused by the 2018 arrest of former Renault-Nissan alliance boss Carlos Ghosn – who played an integral part in Renault’s F1 rebirth from 2016 – were factors in the impending review.
Ahead of the announcement of the 2021 rules, Renault F1 team managing director Cyril Abiteboul admitted his team have “failed to develop the car as much as needed” in 2018.
However, Abiteboul is optimistic the review won’t affect Renault’s future in F1 and believes the 2021 rules, which include a budget cap to narrow the deficit to the big three teams, will make the sport fairer – even if Renault’s budget, which currently operates around $25m less than the 2021 cap of $175m, may increase.
He also previously stated that while McLaren’s departure was a “regret”, it would not affect Renault’s programme beyond 2019.
“The approval of the 2021 financial, technical and sporting regulations by the FIA World Motor Sport Council marks the conclusion of a very comprehensive work by Formula 1, the FIA and the teams,” Abiteboul said.
“They also confirm the vision laid down by Formula 1’s new ownership for a more equitable, more entertaining and more sustainable sport, without betraying the DNA that made us love this complex sport, and to which Renault has been loyal since 42 years.
“Despite some compromises made to bring together the diversity of models created by the current Concorde Agreement and its unsustainable discrepancies, these measures represent significant opportunities for a team like ours, increasing our prospects to reduce the gap to the front and challenge for wins and titles in a reasonable time frame.
“We will continue to work together to fine tune these regulations, but the fact the fundamentals are now secured will allow us to plan the developments required between now and the first race of 2021.”