Sep.3 (GMM/Inautonews.com) Renault is now poised to sign an option to buy a majority stake of the ailing F1 team Lotus, the German publication Auto Motor und Sport reports.
The fate of the beleaguered Enstone team, and Renault and partner Red Bull’s next steps in F1, are the subject of intense speculation in the Monza paddock.
News of the apparently imminent signing of an ‘option’ is therefore significant, but correspondent Michael Schmidt said the entire story and all of its ramifications will probably not be clear until the end of September.
“The situation is extremely complex with many decisions that must be taken,” said Toto Wolff, referring to the fact that Mercedes is waiting for clarity before entering talks to become Red Bull’s next engine supplier.
Indeed, so complex is the situation that Renault – although the likely new team owner – may leave the Lotus team name and identity in place for 2016, including the existing Mercedes engine deal.
Romain Grosjean and the PDVSA-backed Pastor Maldonado would also stay, with Renault planning for 2017 behind the scenes, and insisting that Red Bull and Toro Rosso honour their contracts next year.
But another possibility is that Lotus will become the full ‘Renault’ works team already next year, with the Red Bull deals duly terminated.
That, however, maybe be complicated, as the current Red Bull engine deal is tied up with lucrative sponsorship contracts – reportedly tipping the scales at almost $90 million – with Total and Infiniti, which also would need to be scrapped.
Auto Motor und Sport also reports that Renault is ultimately targeting an annual budget for its works team in the order of $300 million, which is along the lines of what Mercedes spends.
That big budget will be put together by Renault scrapping its support of the Formula Renault 3.5 ‘World Series’, the combined sponsorship by Total and Infiniti, and reportedly a bonus payment made by Bernie Ecclestone.
It is also said that the new silent partner Gerard Lopez could provide existing or new sponsorships for the team that he will continue to part-own.