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JUNE 6, 2008

Worrying signs from Renault F1

There are worrying signs that Renault's lack of success in Formula 1 in recent years - and the rules changes - are finally beginning to have an effect on the team. There are reports in the investigative French newspaper Le Canard Enchaine suggesting that Renault F1 is about to announce a restructuring programme which will drastically reduce the number of staff at the engine facility in Viry-Chatillon.

The factory has been operating at Viry-Chatillon since 1969 when the old Gordini company was merged into Renault and the new facility, called the Usine Amedee Gordini, was established. It was the headquarters of the Renault Sport F1 team in the 1970s and 1980s and then switched to engine development only in the late 1980s. When Renault returned to F1 with Williams in 1988 Viry-Chatillon was again at the forefront of F1 development and a string of World Championship followed until 1997 when the decision was taken to withdraw from F1 and sell the equipment to sub-contractor Mecachrome. A small team of engineers at Viry-Chatillon continued to work on the development of the V10 engine funded by Mecachrome which then sold engines to teams as Supertec V10s. When Renault bought the Benetton F1 team in 2000 the activities in Viry-Chatillon were revived again, although Mecachrome did much of the manufacturing work, leaving Renault F1 to do the research and development. A reduction in staff at Viry-Chatillon would suggest that there is not enough work for the team at the moment, but if Renault is planning to stay in F1 in the long term there would still need to be research and development for the next generation of F1 engines in 2013.

It is also worth noting that Bob Halliwell, a key player in the manufacturing side of Renault F1 has left the team and will soon join Force India. Halliwell has been in motor racing since the 1980s when he worked at March. He was one of the original members of the Jordan team in 1991 and then followed Mike Gascoyne to Renault.

It has been expected that Gascoyne would try to get some of his old team back together again when he was hired by Force India and Halliwell's move is an indication that others may now follow.