Abiteboul explains Renault-McLaren split

Cyril Abiteboul

Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul says that McLaren’s wish to solely be a customer is the reason why the Woking team will switch to Mercedes engines from 2021.

McLaren announced the switch to Mercedes supply at last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, which will see it rekindle a relationship that ended in 2014.

The decision leaves Renault, as it stands, with no customers for the start of the new era of regulations, having produced engines for itself and both the Red Bull teams as recently as 2017.

According to Abiteboul, Renault wanted to form an alliance of sorts with respect to development, whereas McLaren opted for a more transactional arrangement.

“I think McLaren is simply looking for a very simple and straightforward customer relationship,” surmised Abiteboul.

“Clearly the way that they presented it to us is they wanted a supplier and Mercedes is a very good supplier and have a turn-key product that would be done in accordance to Mercedes standards and specification, and McLaren are just going to be focusing specifically on their chassis, and there is some logic to that.

“Our proposal was very much more about a partnership in which we would share lots of parts, engine integration, chassis installation, but not just that.

“If you look at where we are standing, we are very close with McLaren with almost nothing between us, but there is a wall between us and the top teams; 1.8s or something like that between us and pole (in Russia).

“For me, the objective of that relationship could have been to work on reducing that gap together, so creating more synergies about equipment, installation and facilities.

“Also looking at the way Formula 1 is going to evolve, with standard parts, open-source parts, prescriptive design parts, there are a number of opportunities to join forces and try together, as we compete on track, try together to reduce the gap to the top. That was our approach.

“That’s why I’m talking about a strategic partnership, which doesn’t mean them becoming a junior team or B team of Renault – obviously that was not going to happen so we didn’t even consider or try that – but our approach was not really of interest for McLaren. Again, it’s not a critique, it’s a fact.”

Abiteboul described the split as a “lost opportunity” for Renault but believes there are upsides in only having to worry about its own team.

“One of the positives and maybe negatives in our position as an engine supplier (is that) we always want to listen to everyone,” he explained.

“But by doing that we sort of dilute the focus from the works team.

“And we do that because we have always done that, and I frankly have had clashes with my engineering people because of the way they want to deal with customer teams.

“So not having to deal with any customers simplifies things a lot because you just focus on yourself and that’s it.

“Also, thinking about dissemination of IP, if we were staying with McLaren I would have had to disclose the external envelope of the engine in the next few weeks, which frankly is not something I want to do if I have no reason to do it.”

McLaren is currently fourth in the constructors’ championship and Renault fifth, 33 points back, ahead of next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

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