The French manufacturer has signed a letter of intent with the owners of Lotus F1 to take over the cash-strapped team. Fernando Alonso won two Formula 1 drivers’ crowns with Renault. Renault has made the first step towards buying the Lotus F1 team and making a return to the sport as a factory team next year.
A short statement from Renault said the company had signed a letter of intent “regarding the potential acquisition by Renault of a controlling stake in Lotus F1 Team” with Gravity Motorsports, an affiliate of the team’s owner Genii Capital.
“Renault Group and Gravity will work together in the coming weeks to eventually turn this initial undertaking into a definitive transaction provided all terms and conditions are met between them and other interested parties,” the statement continued.
The French manufacturer has been contemplating a Formula 1 return as a full entrant as opposed to an engine supplier since its fruitful relationship with Red Bull Racing turned sour last year.
Although the contract between Red Bull and Renault has a year left to run, both parties have been negotiating for an early divorce for months. Christian Horner’s team has yet to confirm which engines it will use in 2016, but Ferrari appears the strongest possibility.
Lotus F1 has been experienced severe financial troubles of late. It owes a at least £2.7m to the British tax authorities, being penalised £900,000 per month for outstanding payments, and at the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend it was refused access to a hospitality unit due to a payment dispute with Suzuka circuit bosses.
Renault has been involved in Formula 1 for the past 38 years, but during that time it has flitted between being an engine supplier and a full manufacturer team. Its most recent spell as a works entry resulted in F1 world titles for Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006. In 2009, during the midst of the automotive industry’s global slowdown, the company sold a majority stake to Genii Capital.