MONACO, May 27 (Reuters) - Renault are committed to Formula One and will work to reduce the cost of their new engine after its introduction next year, the company’s chief executive Carlos Ghosn has assured Bernie Ecclestone.
Speaking at the Monaco Grand Prix after Renault announced a deal to supply its 2014 engine to Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso, currently with Ferrari, Ghosn said he was aware of F1 supremo Ecclestone’s cost fears.
The current V8 engine costs around nine million euros ($11.64 million) whereas the new 1.6 litre V6 turbocharged unit with energy recovery systems will see the price more than double.
“There is some concern about the cost of the engine, I understand it, but our commitment is to work to reduce these costs,” Ghosn, who met Ecclestone for lunch in Paris in the week before Sunday’s race, told F1 reporters.
”Let’s first put the performance at the right level, reassure our teams that they are going to get a very competitive and effective power unit for 2014 and then little by little rationalise, simplify, reduce the costs.
“We are not going to drop the price for anybody for 2014,” he added. “But our commitment is every year we will be working hard to make this engine more efficient, to reduce the costs and then try to pass part of the cost reduction to the users.”
Renault are supplying four teams this season - champions Red Bull, Williams, Lotus and Caterham - and will be supplying at least three next year.
Red Bull and Toro Rosso are confirmed while Caterham have a long-term commercial agreement with Renault and their Malaysian owner Tony Fernandes said at the weekend they were staying with the French manufacturer.
Williams are expected to switch to Mercedes while Lotus, the former Renault-owned team, are understood to be talking to various parties.
Ghosn said three teams was the minimum Renault, who invest $150 million a year into their Formula One engine activities, required to meet their commercial targets.
“We will not be surprised if the third one will come soon. We may have more but we don’t need more,” he said. “It’s more a question of opportunity than necessity. But in terms of necessity we need three.”
The company head ruled out ‘re-badging’ the Red Bull engine as an Infiniti, the Nissan/Renault alliance-owned luxury brand that is the team’s title sponsor, as well as returning to the sport as a team owner.
However, he said Formula One remained a success for Renault, with its focus on raising awareness of the carmaker’s products in emerging markets such as China, India, Russia and South America.
Red Bull have won the last three drivers’ and constructors’ titles while Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus is second in the current championship behind Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
”People can see that Renault means technology, Renault means reliability. That’s the message for the consumer,“ said Ghosn, who added that the carmaker would stay in the sport for ”as long as it makes sense for the company.
“Today it makes sense for us. We have invested a lot into the new technology coming in 2014 so we are going for many years,” he said. “Nobody can preclude if it would continue to make sense in 10 or 15 years. As long as we are gaining we will continue. Today we are, so we will continue.” ($1 = 0.7734 euros) (Editing by Peter Rutherford)