Abu Dhabi GP: Doubts over Renault deal after dispute

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer at Yas Marina
Bernie Ecclestone
Ecclestone is in talks with Renault over a dispute
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Venue: Yas Marina Circuit Dates: 27-29 November
Coverage: Live BBC TV, radio and text coverage of the race. Full details here.

Renault's future in F1 is in doubt as a result of a dispute over prize money with commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Renault has finalised deals to take over the Lotus team and has a contract to continue to supply engines to Red Bull next season.

But the Lotus buy-out is jeopardising Renault's involvement.

Insiders say Ecclestone agreed a deal for prize money, which then collapsed, and now Renault is now threatening to pull out.

The exact details of the disagreement between Ecclestone and Renault are unclear, but it is said by sources to revolve around confusion surrounding Renault's deal to supply Red Bull, which has been developing in parallel with the situation at Lotus, a team facing the threat of administration.

Ecclestone and Renault had a meeting at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday to try to resolve the problem.

Renault Sport boss Cyril Abiteboul described the talks to BBC Sport as "a positive discussion", adding: "We will report the result to our CEO but I am pretty sure we will have a positive result."

Lotus to Renault
Renault entered Formula 1 as a constructor in 1977

However, Abiteboul added that the company needed to take a "final, definitive view" as to its commitment to F1 and that although it was Renault's "intent" to take over Lotus it had "no obligation" to do so.

The Frenchman said he believed Renault would be in F1 in some capacity next season, describing it as a "transition year".

But he also said that "pulling out of F1 completely is on the table if we don't manage to convince the board that F1 is a meaningful investment for Renault".

He added: "We are talking about a 10-year commitment to the sport, which is not cheap."

The future of Lotus could hang on a resolution to the dispute, as the team is threatened with going into administration if it does not secure its future by 7 December.

Senior insiders say that the deal to secure Renault's buy-out of the team is complete and it will be finalised once the payments dispute with Ecclestone is sorted out.

Staff at Lotus's factory in Enstone in Oxfordshire are already working on a car with a Renault engine for next year and the two companies are working as if they are in partnership even though the deal has not been formally confirmed.

Renault won two world titles with Fernando Alonso in 2005-6 but sold its team to investment group Genii Capital at the end of the 2009 season, continuing in F1 as an engine supplier.

Genii renamed the team Lotus but has agreed to sell it back to Renault.

Red Bull and Renault won four consecutive world title doubles together from 2010-13 but relations have soured since 2014 and the two agreed to part, a year before the end of their contract.

Lotus to Renault
Fernando Alonso became a double champion in 2006 with Renault

But following Red Bull's failure to secure an alternative supply from F1's other manufacturers, Mercedes, Ferrari and Honda, they have had to go back to Renault to secure what at this stage is a one-off deal for next season.

This has been agreed and signed, according to senior insiders, but not formally announced.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: "We have an agreement for an engine for next year which we hope will be confirmed within the coming days. It will have a development path - ironically of what we were trying to achieve 12 months ago."

Sources say the plan is for Renault to be aided in its development of the engine, with which the company has struggled over the last two seasons, by British motorsport engine design company Ilmor.

Red Bull had employed Ilmor boss Mario Illien as a consultant from last year, in which capacity he came up with a development design of the Renault engine.

During the summer, the French company rejected this, preferring to pursue its own line of development. But the engine that resulted from that proved to be less powerful than its replacement when it was run at the Brazilian Grand Prix a fortnight ago.

Abiteboul said he was unable to answer questions on the Red Bull situation, adding: "There will be no announcement about Renault's future this weekend, but there will be an announcement very likely next week."

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