Renault still suffering the effects of 'Crash-gate'

02/10/2019
NEWS STORY

In one of the darker moments of Formula One's recent history, the FIA ruled that Renault had fixed the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix by ordering Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash in order to aid his teammate's chances.

Said teammate, Fernando Alonso might have won the race, but such was the outcry that team boss, Flavio Briatore was banned from the sport and all FIA-sanctioned events indefinitely and executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, banned for five years.

Renault was also disqualified from the sport, albeit suspended for two years, however the scandal saw a number of sponsors, including banking giant ING and Spanish insurer Mutua Madrilena, all angry at the casino games attitude of the incident, part company with the Enstone-based outfit, and ultimately the French car manufacturer itself, which sold the team to the private equity firm Genii, taking a 137.2m ($169.1m) hit in the process.

In 2016, Renault returned to F1, having bought the team back for 1, and while it made on-track progress, finishing fourth in the 2018 standings, its sponsorship income has never reached the peak of 2009, when it saw 100m ($124m) pour into the coffers.

As recently revealed, the team made a 7.8m ($9.5m) loss last year courtesy of an 18.6m ($22.6m) increase in costs, much of this down to an increased headcount and improvements to its Enstone facility.

Costs are set to rise again this year courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo's recruitment, court documents from the case involving the Australian and his former manager revealing that the Honey Badger is on a whopping $27.5m (22.3m) a year, making him the third-highest paid driver on the 2019 grid, with more than enough cash to while away the hours on his favourite casino sites.

The Formula Money Sponsorship Database, reveals that in 2018, Renault’s costs wiped out a 7.6% increase in revenue from higher prize money payments and sponsors.

In total, according to Forbes, the French team signed seven new sponsors last year, including clothing company Le Coq Sportif and Spanish beer Estrella Galicia thereby bringing in a total of 61.3m ($75.8m), a far cry from the 100m ($124m) of a decade earlier. To make matters worse, just under half of this comes from companies connected to Renault.

This season sees the team battling with McLaren for fourth in the standings, however, as it loses ground to the Woking outfit, to which Renault supplies engines, it is under increasing pressure from Toro Rosso and Racing Point.

Like its nine rivals, Renault is not committed to F1 beyond the end of 2020, and with the team clearly falling short of the original 5-year plan, which promised wins in 2020, there are fears that not for the first time, the French company might opt to leave the sport, stage left.

Indeed, another disappointing weekend in Sochi, was capped by the news that McLaren is to switch to Mercedes power units in 2021, leaving the French manufacturer with only one customer, itself. It's understood the McLaren deal was worth around 12.9m ($16m) a year.

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Published: 02/10/2019
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