Renault to make full F1 return in 2016: statement

Reuters News
|
Posted: Dec 03, 2015 4:33 PM

PARIS (Reuters) - French car maker Renault will return to Formula One as a full constructor next year after agreeing key contracts to acquire the Lotus team, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

"Renault had two options: come back 100 percent or leave completely," Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said in a statement. "After detailed analysis, I made my decision: Renault will be present in Formula One from 2016."

Renault signed a letter of intent in September to take a controlling stake in British-based Lotus, the team it previously owned but sold in late 2009 after a race fixing scandal involving the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

Lotus, who employ some 480 staff at their factory in Prime Minister David Cameron's constituency near Oxford, were facing legal action over unpaid taxes and had been due in the London High Court next Monday.

Ghosn said work was under way to implement as quickly as possible the agreement concerning the acquisition, and key contracts had been signed on Thursday.

"Lotus appeared the best team to partner. We've known each other for 15 years and we were world champions together in 2005 and 2006," the statement said.

The team, which also won championships with Michael Schumacher as Benetton before becoming Renault, were renamed Lotus in 2011.

Sponsored mainly by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, with Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado confirmed for next season with British rookie Jolyon Palmer, Lotus finished fourth overall in 2013 but slumped to eighth in 2014 with just 10 points.

They ended the season that finished last weekend a respectable sixth, despite minimal investment and frequent financial obstacles in their way.

Bailiffs impounded their cars after the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa and they were locked out of their paddock hospitality in Japan due to unpaid bills.

"Our ambition is to win even if it will take time," Ghosn said.

Renault have provided engines this season to Red Bull, with whom they won four championships in a row between 2010 and 2013, and sister team Toro Rosso.

Neither team was mentioned in the statement although Red Bull are expected to race next year with an engine provided by the French manufacturer while Toro Rosso switch to Ferrari.

(Reporting By John Irish; editing by Ralph Boulton/Alan Baldwin)