Renault poised to complete Lotus deal and revive works F1 team

Renault is poised to return as a works team to Formula 1, with a deal to take a majority stake in Lotus due to be finalised next week, AUTOSPORT understands

The agreement would end months of protracted negotiations and bring a factory Renault operation back onto the F1 grid for the first time since 2010.

AUTOSPORT sources have indicated the French car manufacturer would take a stake up to 65 per cent, worth a total of £65million, with an initial downpayment of £7.5million to be followed by equal instalments over the following 10 years.

Gerard Lopez, currently Lotus F1 team co-owner via his Genii organisation, looks set to remain as a shareholder with a potential stake of around 25 per cent, with four-time champion and Renault ambassador Alain Prost acquiring the remaining 10 per cent.

The arrangement with Lopez and Prost would be very similar to that at Mercedes where motorsport boss Toto Wolff and non-executive chairman Niki Lauda possess shareholdings in the F1 team.

Following a Renault presentation meeting currently scheduled for Monday, an array of documents is then due to be signed involving parties from both sides over the following days.

At this stage in proceedings Renault is understood to have negotiated a full sponsorship package, with the board - spearheaded by CEO Carlos Ghosn - signing off on a budget that would put it on a par with the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull.

One of the few areas to be determined surrounds the driver line-up for while Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado have contracts with Lotus for next year, Renault coming on board alters the landscape.

Renault is expected to keep Frenchman Grosjean, with Maldonado believed to be negotiating - supported by backer PDVSA - to ensure he retains his seat.

The up-to-date facilities at Lotus's Enstone factory - well known to Renault from its previous ownership of the team - are crucial to the deal.

Lotus's CFD programme and driver-in-the-loop simulator are only two years old, while the 60 per cent windtunnel is three years old.

Although Renault, through Prost, has also held tentative talks with Force India about a potential shareholding, the Silverstone-based marque's relative lack of facilities is a drawback.

Renault has no real wish to acquire a team without the infrastructure behind it, though Force India remains an option should the Lotus shareholders pull out of the deal at the last minute.

Of particular interest is Renault's current engine deal with Red Bull and Toro Rosso, with sources suggesting there are three options on the table.

The first is Renault honouring its other contracts for 2016 alongside its own team.

Though this would maintain an additional income stream, Red Bull's contract specifically states that it takes priority.

Another possibility is for Renault - which has road car affiliations with Mercedes - to keep Lotus's current Mercedes power for a year while seeing out its other contracts.

Finally, Renault could focus entirely on its own programme, but as a way of softening the blow to Red Bull, assist it in finding a new supplier, where the links with Mercedes could again pay dividends.

The planned payment structure would amount to a bold statement of long-term F1 commitment from Renault, guaranteeing a minimum 10-year presence.

While tentative steps would be taken in 2016, as Renault again tries to find its feet in F1 as a full-time works outfit, it would consider '17 as its first year to try to push the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari for honours.

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