Renault Sport’s F1 and Formula E programmes are now run under the same roof. Just how close is the electric racing team to being a full works entry?
Formula E’s French team is undergoing something of a metamorphosis. In the first season, it was called “e.dams-Renault”. The squad was essentially DAMS, the super successful French team that competes in F1’s various feeder series. Led by Jean-Paul Driot, the Formula E entity also had F1 legend Alain Prost on board, mainly in a management and sponsor relations role, and funding and technical support from Renault. For season two, the team has become one of the sport’s new constructors with a home-grown powertrain, has changed its name to “Renault e.dams” and has dressed some of its trackside team in signature yellow jackets emblazoned with the words “Renault Sport”.
Explicitly highlighting the Renault connection at a time when the company is reportedly close to moving back into F1 with its own race team throws up several questions. Is the second season Formula E entity effectively a works team? How closely might its infrastructure be related to a near-future F1 race programme? How integrated are the engineering efforts? What, exactly, is Renault’s intention within the sport and what might be the effects on its future in F1?
“It’s very simple,” says Alain Prost. “The first season, Renault was already a sponsor, with the motivation of being part of the team for the medium and long term, especially with the development of the technology. This year, you see more of Renault. The involvement is much bigger. They have worked very hard with us on the development of the powertrain. We have the same organisation, the same drivers and engineers. It’s very similar – but we have more involvement from Renault.”
While the relationship between Renault Sport and the Formula E team might appear to be “simple”, there is a lot more going on with the F1 question hanging in the air and Prost doesn’t shrink from the facts.
“The organisation is moving at the moment,” Prost admits. “It is really a marketing project. All motor sports activities are led by the marketing people. We are working with Renault F1. It’s difficult to answer in a precise way but the people are Renault F1 but also involved in Formula E.”
Vincent Gaillardot is the engineer who leads Renault Sport’s electrical and electronics division; he oversees both its F1 and Formula E programmes. “I’ve been involved since day one at a high level, since Renault was involved with Spark to develop the season one car,” he says of the Formula E project. “We gave expertise on integration. We decided to put the Formula E project within the Renault Sport F1 activity because I’ve been leading electrical and electronics projects here for more than 10 years. We have dedicated resources and a pool of experts than can sustain any electric business.”
Prost is said to be very closely involved in the new F1 project. “My role is going to change for sure,” he says of his Formula E duties. “I will still be involved. No question about that. No reason not to even if I do something a little bit different. There’s no strategy between F1 and Formula E in terms of running a team but we would have a common organisation.”
This is an excerpt from an article appearing in the October 2015 edition of the Current E magazine.