Renault threatens to withdraw from Formula 1

SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) French automaker Renault, which supplies engines to the Red Bull and Toro Rosso teams, is considering pulling out of Formula One because of the damage done to its reputation after a difficult start to the season.

Renault Sport F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said Friday he is looking at his options, ”including getting out of Formula One.”

”If Formula One is that bad for Renault’s reputation, if we see that we will continue to struggle with the current formula, if Formula One is not delivering on the value that it costs Renault … this is what we’re looking at,” he said.

However, Abiteboul was also asked whether Renault was weighing up the option of buying an existing F1 team and becoming a race constructor again.

”We’ll have to review the situation from a marketing and strategic perspective,” Abiteboul said.

Renault won championships in 2005 and 2006 but withdrew from the sport after heavy penalties for fixing the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

The team principal of Toro Rosso, which is considered to be a takeover target if Renault took that step, said the Italy-based team would be receptive to an offer from Renault.

”This would be a fantastic opportunity for Toro Rosso to make the next step forward,” Franz Tost said. ”To be part of a manufacturer, to work together with a manufacturer, and be owned by a manufacturer would be exactly the step the team needs.”

Two other teams considered to be possible targets for Renault are Force India and Lotus, which have had financial troubles, but both played down any interest. Both teams have engine supply deals with Mercedes through 2020.

”We are not looking for a buyer and are not for sale,” Lotus chief executive Matthew Carter said.

Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley said: ”I have had absolutely no discussion at all with Renault.”

If Renault pulls out of F1, or switches from engine supplier to competitor, it would put Red Bull in a difficult situation.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said such a change may leave the Austrian-based parent company with no option but to withdraw from the sport, too, because there would be no other viable option for engine supply.

”It sound like Franz wants to sell his team to Cyril and we will then need an engine,” Horner said. ”Should we find ourselves in a situation without an engine supplier … you could find yourself actually forced out of the sport.”

Red Bull and Horner have expressed frustration with the lack of cost control in the sport, and he referenced that again Friday.

”Is Formula One delivering for Red Bull as a brand? There are some worrying signs,” Horner said. ”Red Bull wants to be in Formula One and we want to try and address some of the issues that are currently plaguing the sport that we don’t seem to be able to find any traction with.”

Horner also said Red Bull has no plans to start making its own engines – a theory fueled by the team’s new deal with engineering group Ilmor.

”We have no intention of being an engine manufacturer,” Horner said. ”We (Red Bull and Ilmor) are trying to work in co-ordination with Renault to assist in the areas where perhaps they are not strong.”