Renault happy to focus on F1 engines

NEW DELHI Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:38am EDT

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Renault have ruled out returning to Formula One as a constructor for years to come and are happy with their new focus providing engines to as many teams as want them, according to company chief executive Carlos Ghosn.

Although there is currently a Renault team competing in the sport, the French car maker has sold its stake in the former champions to Luxembourg-based Genii Capital.

That team, who do have Renault engines, have already sought permission to change their name so that they can compete next year as Lotus.

"For a car manufacturer, playing the role that we are playing today, providing engines and technologies to many teams is more in line with the sustainability of the name and of the brand," Ghosn told a small group of international reporters at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

"I feel much more comfortable with the strategy we have today where we are a partner next year with four teams and providing engines."

Renault were champions with Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006 but the team were then caught up in one of the sport's biggest scandals when it emerged that Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet junior had been ordered to crash deliberately in Singapore in 2008 to help his team mate win.

Renault were handed a suspended permanent ban while flamboyant team principal Flavio Briatore was also barred.

Asked by Reuters whether the carmaker had definitively turned its back on its days as a constructor, Ghosn said nothing lasted forever but "you can count on this at least for the next three to five years."

Renault engines also power champions Red Bull and Team Lotus, who are due to be renamed Caterham, and from next year Williams as well.

Williams, nine times constructors' champions and dominant with Renault engines in the 1990s, are enduring their worst ever season with only five points from 17 races.

"We think they have a much higher potential than what they are delivering today," said Ghosn. "We think that by supplying them with the engines it is going to help them reposition themselves in a much better place."

Red Bull have a partnership with luxury-brand Infiniti, part of the Renault-Nissan alliance, and there have been suggestions that team's engine could be 're-badged'. Ghosn said that would not happen.

"I don't think you can artificially give a name. If Renault is providing the technology you can't just artificially say 'Okay, you know what, for marketing reasons I'm going to call it Infiniti.' It doesn't work," he said.

"The engine is the domain of Renault and will remain the domain of Renault for the foreseeable future."

Ghosn suggested the carmaker could ultimately take on more customers, although Formula One rules currently limit the number of teams an engine maker can supply.

"We can do more," he said. "As much as needed. We have the team of engineers, we have the technology, we have the plant. We are ready to respond to the needs of any team who would love to have a Renault engine."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Patrick Johnston)

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