Renault will return to Formula 1 in 2016 with its own team, following its full acquisition of the Lotus team in a deal said to be worth around €111 million (about £80 million).
Having signed a letter of intent to potentially acquire the Lotus F1 team back in September, the French brand has now confirmed it will compete with its own team during the 2016 season. The deal was reportedly finalised at last weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone met with Renault Sport president Jerome Stoll. A statement from the company says that particular attention has been paid to competing "in a financially sound way."
Announcing the firm's return to F1, Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said: "Renault had two options: to come back at 100% or leave. After a detailed study, I have decided that Renault will be in Formula 1, starting 2016. The final details supplied by F1’s main stakeholders gave us the confidence to accept this new challenge. Our ambition is to win - even if it will take some time.”
Renault admits that the payback given to the brand as an engine supplier has been "limited", and that "the return on investment necessitatated by the new engine regulations and the return in terms of image were low." Renault announced earlier this year that it would cease supplying engines to teams as of the end of this season, and would either look to enter the sport fully or walk away from F1. Renault now returns as a constructor for the first time since 2011.
Work will now continue on the logistics of taking over the Lotus F1 team, but Renault says it wants the acquisition to be completed 'as quickly as possible'. The firm says its return to F1 "is confirmation that it sees motorsport as an essential part of the brand’s identity. Formula 1 is the ultimate symbol of the passion for automobiles."
It's understood that Renault will also use F1 as a technology showcase. The brand is already promising that technology used in its F1 campaign will filter down into its road cars, saying: "It simultaneously allows Renault to build bridges between the advanced technologies seen in the world championship and its road cars, particularly in the fields of electric and hybrid vehicles."
Investment in the Renaultsport division is also being stepped up, with Renault promising the sub-brand will be "active on every continent and in even more segments with vehicles that meet the needs of their different markets."
Renault has a long-standing relationship with the Lotus F1 team, and helped the team to acheive world championship victories in 2005 and 2006.
More details on Renault's return to F1 - including details of its racing programme - will be revealed in January before the new F1 season begins next March. It is understood that the firm has commited to remaining in F1 for nine years, through to the end of the 2024 season. Autosport reports Renault has received an advance payment for its first six years of activity, as well as retaining all historical rights.