Rumors continue to swirl around Renault’s future in Formula 1. While the team has already signed Robert Kubica as their new lead driver for the coming season, presumably in a multi-year contract, Renault’s board of directors has yet to confirm their long term participation in the sport. The latest rumor suggests that they might vacate their slot on the 2010 entry list, and sell the team to Dave Richards’ Prodrive outfit.
Prodrive has a 25 year history in various aspects motorsports, including rally and sports car racing, driver training, licensing and merchandising, and the development of performance-enhancing road car technology.
Dave Richards, one of the company’s founders, has prior experience in Formula 1. In 1997, when Flavio Briatore was fired from the Benetton team, Richards was hired to replace him. His tenure there lasted only a year. In 2001, the BAR team ousted team principal Craig Pollock (also Jacques Villeneuve’s personal manager) and Prodrive was retained to manage the team, with Richards as team principal.
In 2004, Honda acquired BAR, and terminated the arrangement with Richards and Prodrive. Nick Fry was hired as the new team principal. Fry had been a managing director at Prodrive. In 2008, Ross Brawn joined Honda as the new team principal, with Fry staying on as CEO. After Brawn’s first season with the team, Honda withdrew from the sport, the team was rebranded as Brawn GP, in a management buy-out. In 2010, Brawn GP will be rebranded as Mercedes GP, pending completion of the Stuttgart company’s acquisition of a majority stake in the team.
Should Prodrive acquire Renault, it would, in a sense, bring Richards’ F1 career full circle, as the Enstone-based team is actually the rebranded Benetton team, and Richards would once again be following in the managerial footsteps of Flavio Briatore at the Enstone facility.
It is thought that if Renault decide to sell the team, they would continue to participate in the sport as an engine supplier, both to Prodrive and Red Bull. The next meeting of Renault’s full board is scheduled for December 14, so it is unlikely that anything would be confirmed before that date.
Image by Klaus Nahr, licensed through Creative Commons.