JANUARY 15, 1996
Renault considering 1997 pullout?
THERE are strong rumors in F1 circles that Renault is considering withdrawing from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1997. Renault has been involved in F1 since 1977 - although it missed the 1987 and 1988 seasons because of financial constraints at the time. In recent years, however, Renault has achieved the same kind of domination which Honda enjoyed in the late 1980s and has little left to prove. As other major manufacturers consider F1, Renault bosses may consider it is best to go out while still ahead than to be beaten.
In the last five seasons Renault has won 52 of 60 races and seven World Championships. That domination is likely to continue in 1996. The marketing impact of F1 is gone and the company has created the sporty image it wanted when it first entered motor racing in the late 1960s.
There are also strong financial reasons why F1 may no longer suit Renault's commercial aims. The company is being privatized, and this is sure to create pressure from shareholders to concentrate on making money. The strength of the French Franc against other major currencies must also be taken into account as French companies are having great difficulty selling their goods abroad at competitive prices.
Whatever the case, we will soon know if Renault is to continue as the contracts for 1998 will be signed in the course of the season. Both current Renaut-engined teams - Benetton and Williams - are currently keeping their options open at the moment, despite rumors which have linked Williams with the rumored BMW F1 project.
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