David Richards' Prodrive operation faces opposition from Luxembourg investment fund Genii Capital in its bid to take over Renault's factory team.
The French car manufacturer's executive committee met in Paris yesterday to discuss the future plans for the team, ahead of a crunch board meeting next week. It is understood that no formal decision was made about what to do, because it was felt that the rival bids need more consideration, but it is edging close to picking which way it wants to go.
A report that first emerged in French newspaper Le Parisien this morning has revealed that rather than Prodrive's bid being in cooperation with that of businessman Gerard Lopez, as was initially suggested, they are, in fact, rivals. Lopez's plans are being put together through his Genii Capital company, with cooperation from his business partner Eric Lux. The company has invested in a number of projects – including the Charlie Chaplin Museum in Switzerland and the Gravity Sports Management company that looks after a number of drivers.
It is understood that Lopez's plan is for his company to take financial control of the team, but for it to remain Renault for at least another two years. Sources have revealed that he intends to take between 75 and 100 percent of the Renault team if his bid is successful. Furthermore, Lopez has agreed to incorporate the Renault Driver Development program into his Gravity Sports Management company if he takes over the team.
Le Parisien suggests that Renault's CEO Carlos Ghosn favors this option for the future – especially because it has the blessing of Formula 1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that the current Renault F1 team management is believed to favor the bid being put together by Prodrive.
Richards' vast experience of running teams at all levels of motorsport would be valuable to Renault as it bids to return to the top in F1 – and it is believed his involvement would allow Renault the chance to withdraw its name from F1 and remain only as an engine supplier.
Ecclestone told Britain's The Times newspaper on Friday that he was confident a solution would be found to keep the Renault team in F1.
"We've got to get the whole Renault thing sorted out," he said. "We are in the middle of doing it now. I feel confident that we'll see Renault next year in Formula 1 under the name Renault, and the year after and the year after that."