Renault floating idea for fourth customer team

Formula One team Renault could be making a move to consolidate power across the F1 grid – but is it the right time for such a maneuver?

It’s no secret that in the realm of Formula One, the more teams an engine manufacturer can supply, the better off their engine comes out being. This is largely due to the fact that the more teams a manufacturer can get under its wing, the more testbeds for data-gathering it can obtain for its engine design. There are always fluctuations in the quantity of specific power units throughout the years, but the advantage is clear, the more, the better. And now, it appears that the sport could be seeing a bigger presence from one of its most famous manufacturers: Renault.

Although Renault have yet to confirm any concrete plans for 2018, new comments made by Renault Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul has lent credence to the theory that the team will be looking to consolidate its power out on the grid. As rival engine manufacturer Honda has all but blown its chances in the series, Renault could be looking to fill a Honda-sized gap in the future. Though there are no guarantees, Abiteboul believes the French manufacturer’s reliability is fast approaching the levels it needs to be:

“I think we are now getting back to a position where we could seriously consider a fourth customer. Reliability will be under control later in this season, and much further next year.

It all comes down to reliability, in terms of staff, in terms of manufacturing capacity. Because we don’t manufacture it means that it’s a burden that we are transferring to our suppliers, and we are capable of scaling up and down our supplier customer base.

With fewer engines next year, it’s three per driver next season, it makes things even easier to do that. I’m not making a statement that yes, we’d be happy to, but are we capable of supplying four teams? Yes, we are.”

– Cyril Abiteboul

“Happy to” and “capable” in the manner that Abiteboul used them do certainly seem to imply that Renault would prefer to not field a fourth customer engine, there is a strong possibility that they are politically sandbagging their intentions. With Sauber having come public about their deal with Honda in 2018, there is pressure for other engine manufacturers to secure their future contracts as the summer mid-season approaches.

Not that Honda’s power unit is in a position to be competitive against the rest of the pack, but Sauber’s willingness to adopt them means one less open slot for the others, which means one less critical point of data-gathering.

We are highly unlikely to get any further updates from Renault regarding their 2018 customer teams until the F1 winter break unless something unexpected happens – and the way this season has been going so far, that’s a very real possibility.