October 26, 2019 / 4:59 PM / 18 days ago

Renault F1 boss optimistic team will stay beyond 2020

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Renault’s Formula One future is under review but team boss Cyril Abiteboul says he is optimistic the French carmaker will stay in the sport.

FILE PHOTO: Newly-appointed interim CEO Clotilde Delbos attends a news conference at French carmaker Renault headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, France, October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The company’s interim CEO Clotilde Delbos told analysts this week that all aspects of the business, including Formula One, were being examined.

Formula One’s owner Liberty Media is also negotiating new contractual agreements with all teams from 2021, when existing deals expire, and plans a major revamp of the sporting and technical rules from then.

Abiteboul told reporters at the Mexican Grand Prix that he could give no categoric assurances until the internal review was complete.

“Let’s follow the process. But let’s be optimistic,” he said.

“Renault will be presented with a new contract for the period 2021-2025 and we will assess if we want to sign on those new terms,” said Abiteboul.

“There will be assessment to decide whether or not we sign on those new terms, but those terms are better than the ones we have now anyway, so I am confident.”

The 2021 regulations are due to be published next week, during the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin.

Abiteboul said it was important for Renault to be confident of “reasonable results, at a reasonable cost” in the coming years.

“In my opinion, what we will get out of 2021 measures, we’re going in the right direction to answer these questions positively,” he said.

Renault returned to the sport as a manufacturer in 2016, after buying back the majority stake in the team they had sold in 2010, but their performance has been unspectacular.

They have not won a race, as Renault, since 2008 — the year of one of the sport’s biggest scandals when team bosses were found to have ordered Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr. to crash in Singapore so that Fernando Alonso could win.

The team are currently fifth overall and on Wednesday were stripped of nine points from the Japanese Grand Prix after stewards found their car breached the sporting regulations on driver aids after a protest by rivals Racing Point.

Renault currently supply former champions McLaren with engines as well as their own works outfit but that deal ends at the end of next year, with the Woking-based team switching to Mercedes.

Abiteboul said the Suzuka decision did not help from an image perspective but would not be a factor in the bigger picture.

“I can’t believe that Renault will make a decision based on nine points. This story... between Racing Point and Renault in Suzuka is not going to affect the long-term strategy of Renault in the sport,” he said.

“We’ve been in the sport since 42 years and we genuinely believe that it adds something to the marketing value of the brand and to tell a story regarding technology.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris

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