Renault eye F1 exit? UPDATE #8 We are downgrading this rumor to 'false' - see Carlos Ghosn interview on out Hot News page.
01/07/06 Regarding Renault letting their popular champion Fernando Alonso out of his contract so easy, Paul Stoddart had this to say - "The message that sends out is; 'what are Renault's intentions for 07?' as a lot of people have been making predictions - rightly or wrongly - that they may get out of the sport at the end of 06 or 07," Stoddart said. "This move shows me that Renault were willing to let him go and that would not have happened without quite a lot of serious thought..."
01/04/06 A sign of Renault's attitude towards the value of F1 came in a press statement this morning giving details of the firm's sales figures in the last 12 months. The results show that the firm dropped 4.1% in Europe but made up for this with a 21% hike in international sales, which meant that overall the company increased sales by 1.7% to 2.53m vehicles.
It is perhaps significant that no mention was made of the value of Fernando Alonso's World Championship nor the Constructors' title while much was made of the success of the Dacia Logan. The only hint that there might be some effect from F1 was in the increase in sales of Renault cars in Spain, which were up 3.5% compared to France (2.7%) and Germany (1.9%). Elsewhere the numbers were down with Switzerland (minus 7.6%), Holland (minus 7%) and UK (minus 4.7%).
The company says that its top priority is profitability but intends to continue its international expansion at the same time. The company will present its medium term plans on February 9. Grandprix.com 12/21/05 Further evidence Renault may be gone? Bad news often comes at the same time, and we hear following the news of Fernando Alonso's planned departure from Renault F1 there will soon be an announcement that Japan Tobacco is not planning to go on with its Mild Seven sponsorship of the team beyond the end of the current deal at the end of 2006. The four-year extension of the deal which began in 1994 with a $20m sponsorship of the Benetton team, runs out in December 2006 and with the ever-increasing pressure on tobacco advertising it is being suggested that JT no longer sees F1 as useful as was once the case.
Things have certainly changed at JT with the company having been privatized in 2004 and it is now operating from Switzerland. It is the third largest international tobacco manufacturer with net sales in 2004 of $39.5bn. The company owns the Camel, Mild Seven, Salem and Winston brands in addition to a number of other smaller brands such as Cabin, More and Yves St Laurent cigarettes. Grandprix.com12/20/05 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong.' To the 'Sport1' publication former German GP driver Hans-Joachim Stuck reckons the Alonso to McLaren move was pretty predictable. ''It looks like Renault will stop (the F1 program) in a year or two.''
12/20/05 Renault boss Flavio Briatore claims he played no part in Fernando Alonso's defection to McLaren - despite being the world champion's manager. As Alonso's manager, it was assumed Briatore had played a crucial part in those negotiations.
But today he revealed Alonso made first contact with McLaren and hammered out a deal on his own, without Briatore's knowledge.
"Fernando made a personal decision that his future lies outside the Renault team when his current contract expires at the end of 2006. He contacted, and negotiated with McLaren at his own instigation." [Editor's Note: Does he really think people are stupid? As his manager Briatore not get a cut of Alonso's rumored $96 million deal. Just rolls over and walk away from millions? Or will he file a lawsuit later to get his cut?]12/19/05 Did Alonso know that Renault was leaving F1 hence his exit to McLaren that was announced today? Was Bernie Ecclestone keen on getting Super Aguri onto the grid knowing Renault will leave the sport? Would not Renault team boss Flavio Briatore have known about Alonso's exit since he is Alonso's personal manager? Yet he did nothing to stop him. Hmm..... 12/18/05 Even with the 2005 world titles in the bag, Renault's new CEO - Carlos Ghosn - may be devising a formula one exit strategy for post-'07.
Ghosn is a renowned cost cutter, and is reportedly concerned about the flagging sales of road cars in Europe -- down 12 per cent.
Even in Spain, world champion Fernando Alonso's home market, the sales decline is 3.5%.
Renault's F1 president Patrick Faure told the 'Bloomberg' agency that the Enstone-based team must remain in the top-3 to stay on the race grid.
Ghosn is expected to present his 3-year Renault plan in February.
''(He) won't lose sleep about Renault staying in formula one,'' Kimio Kase, who has written a book about Ghosn's leadership of Nissan, said.
'''He'll ... look to see if there is synergy between formula one and Renault -- which I don't think there is.''
Clearly, however, Faure is a fan of the F1 program, and he said that Renault's involvement is more about 'reputation' and 'image' than mere car sales.
''Being world champion, we have a very good return on what we invest,'' said the Frenchman. For the record, Renault's annual investment is about $300m, albeit less than rivals like McLaren, Honda and Toyota.