Renault seeking to extend engine-supply deal
|By Jonathan Noble||Thursday, July 14th 2011, 11:22 GMT|
Renault has opened talks with its current engine partner to try and sort out a long-term extension of its deal that could boost efforts to bring a French driver back on to the Formula 1 grid.
The Enstone-based outfit has a firm deal with Renault Sport until the end of 2013, and the team is interested in extending that partnership for when F1 switches to the new V6 power units the year after.
Team principal Eric Boullier says that talks have begun with Renault about longer term plans, and admits they could play a part in efforts to boost the French presence in F1 - through both having a driver and a home race.
Boullier has been part of early discussions with French political representatives about trying to find ways to secure the return of the French GP.
Sources have also revealed that the outfit is giving serious consideration to handing Romain Grosjean another F1 chance later this year if he continues to impress in GP2 and Nick Heidfeld does not deliver stronger results.
Speaking in the wake of reports suggesting Renault could switch to Cosworth in 2012, Boullier said: "Those are new rumours from the paddock that I can kill now if you want – our contract with Renault is ending at the end of 2013.
"We have already started the discussions about extending it, and now we have to negotiate.
"But the situation today is different [from recent years]. Renault today is an engine supplier and, even if historically we have a very good relationship and a good technical partnership, because some of the technology that Renault is selling to the customer is ours, the discussion today is different.
"We are part of this group of four teams, and we would like to put back in the right place the technology where it should be. We are not an engine supplier, we are a chassis maker.
"Plus, on top of this, we have some sponsorship with Renault and Total, which is a French involvement. The intention in France is to bring F1 back to France. So it is very complex, but I am trying to make everybody happy. Me first, but also our partners, to also make sure that we can keep commercial relationships."
Boullier has said he is also keen to secure guarantees from Renault Sport that its decision to expand its supply to four teams next year – thanks to linking up with Williams as well as Red Bull Racing and Team Lotus – does not dilute its efforts.
"Obviously you may have concerns when they are getting bigger in supplying another team," he said. "Maybe they get their energy diluted, with their resources. This is a concern we can have and we have raised this and we will be raising it."
Despite Boullier's push to forge closer links with Renault in the future, Williams is equally trying hard to make the most of its new partnership.
With Renault Sport's managing director Jean-Francois Caubet recently suggesting that the company would need to pick one or two preferred partners from 2014, Williams is well aware of the opportunities it has.
Williams chairman Adam Parr said: "I think from a technology point of view Renault is scrupulous in providing the same kit to everybody. And even if we were beneficiaries, that equity between teams is so important. I would never want preference.
"But in terms of how we develop the commercial relationship, as I said, the advantage we have is that we are not in F1 promoting another car brand. And I kind of feel that Williams-Renault, because of the history, is actually almost synonymous with Renault in Formula 1 in a way. I'm not being derogatory but I don't think that's quite true of Red Bull-Renault. Red Bull is Red Bull.
"They have a fantastic engine in the back and clearly a Renault presence, but it's perhaps not achieving the marketing impact that it might, so we would love to be part of that."