ING quits F1 – will Renault follow?

Posted on

| Written by

Say goodbye to the orange lion - ING is quitting F1 after three years

Renault’s title sponsor ING has confirmed what was widely expected – that it will not continue its F1 activities beyond the end of 2009. As well as sponsoring the French team, ING also backed the Australian, Hungarian and Belgian Grands Prix in 2008.

Faced with the loss of such a major backer, will Renault cut its losses and leave at the end of this year?

ING was hit hard by the credit crunch and has receoved ??10bn from the Dutch government. (They are not the only major F1 sponsor in this situation – RBS has had a huge influx of cash from the British government).

Renault is in a similar situation, with the French government recently announcing a bailout for its manufacturers worth up to ??6bn. How can the manufacturer justify a presence in F1 when it is dependent on public money? (On the other hand, given the French state already owns a 15% stake in Renault, does it make a difference?)

I have written before about why Renault looks more likely than its competitors to quit F1 sooner rather than later. Unlike Toyota, which arrived in F1 in 2002 as Renault was making its return, the French team can boast race wins and championship trophies.

Aside from the difficulty of finding a replacement title sponsor in such a difficult economy, Renault has a history of turning up in F1, winning and then quitting. From 1977-1985 they won 15 Grands Prix but pulled out after suffering a drop in form – and car sales.

They returned as engine manufacturers within a few years and enjoyed huge success with Williams and Benetton from 1992-1997, winning 11 out of 12 titles in that period.

Since taking over the Benetton outfit in 2002 Renault have won back-to-back drivers’ and constructors’ championships. After a troubled 2007 they returned to winning ways with Alonso last year.

But team leader Flavio Briatore has already admitted he only intends to stay in the sport until the end of 2010. And Alonso is widely believed to be defecting to Ferrari as soon as he can prise one of their regulars out of the cockpit.

The prospect of having to replace him and Briatore, compounded by their financial pressures, could mean Renault have more reasons to leave F1 than to stay.

However, if they do continue despite ING’s absence (and I hope they do), there is at least a decent chance their cars might not look such a dog’s breakfast next year.

Read more

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

33 comments on “ING quits F1 – will Renault follow?”

  1. I think much will depend on whether Alonso stays on another year, or heads off a year early to Ferrari. Renault should actively start courting some very rich billionaires and oligarchs now…

  2. Not unexpected, but it dose indeed throw a wrench into Renault’s future plans. I think they will stay if they can find a replacement sponsor, but that may be easier said than done in this climate.

  3. so in 2010 when Renault drops out w/ Toyota & Torro Rosso, Ferrari will have to field 5 cars, making for plenty of room for Alonso to fit in there.

  4. Even with ING as the title sponsor, Renault could quit, because ING paid a lot less than Japan Tobaco did (Mild Seven sponsorship).
    Renault were frim on the sport, because, the F1 team actually helped the corporate image, so it was a sucessfull “publicity” campaign.

    the situation changed, with Renault no longer winning, F1 could actually (it’s difficult to say if it actually does) become a blow to the corporate image, and no longer being self-suficient in terms of budget, even without the current crisis, Ghosn would for sure end their participation, and look elsewhere for sport recognition (or nowhere!).

  5. What I forget to say in my last comment, is that IMO, Renault were already in jeopardy of bailing out of F1 at the end of this or next year, with or without the crisis, with or withou ING as a title sponsor. With these 2 factors to account for, its almost certain that Renault will quit F1.

    But I’m curious to see what happens if they have a sucessfull year. Could they find a big sponsor that would give the enough money for they to stay without an increase of funding from Renault itself? The big question is, where would that sponsor come from?
    WE’ve seen that banks replaced the tobaco companies, as major F1 sponsors, but now I don’t see any bank spending money in F1, apart from the ones that are there (but also quitting, like ING, Credit Suisse…).

    But it’s very difficult to say how the future will be, since this (stupid) crisis, can suddenly end (almost like he came) and next year everyone will be “giving” money like crazy :-)

    1. How about Santander spending money for Mac.How will they survive if they leave them?

    2. Santander haven’t been affected the same way as ING and RBS – I don’t think they’ve had any public money (correct me if I’m wrong).

      McLaren’s worry with Santander is they’ll defect to Ferrari to join up with Alonso…

    3. Not a chance Bakano mate !

      This is the biggy. The ninth wave. From my sources
      the word is that virtually all current sport sponsorship
      is going to be hit very hard indeed. The reason for that
      is quite simple; when the chips are down ( and boy are they down ! ) big investors in Banks and other major international companies tend to regard sport sponsorship
      as simply frivolous. And these are the guys who ultimately call the shots.

      It is not a very nice situation for F1 to be in at all and I suspect that all the racing will look meaner and less high-tech for a while, simply to keep the racing going. Sadly, people like Ecclestone don’t seem to be getting the message that HIS charges for what he provides have to be drastically reduced now like all the other racing costs, or there won’t be any F1 racing for him to make ANY money from.

      Talk about killing the goose thats laying all those
      golden eggs ! If the current teams could see a significant reduction in their overheads right now, those teetering on the brink of quitting might just be able to hang in there for a couple more seasons.

      But is anybody listening to the cries for mercy ?

  6. The only guy smiling is the one who designs Renault livery each year. No more ghastly orange to fit in somehow! :D

    Of course, he’ll probably be out of a job next year. Maybe he can remove his last two jobs from his portfolio…

  7. I greatly admire Alonso and Renault and believe that this year they will win the WDC. The last day of testing in Jerez things went very well and Alonso commented that the car was getting to be very easy to drive and set up. We can remember what happened the last time Alonso felt this way ( 2005, 2006 ).

    It would be a tragedy if Renault quit. They are a team with a unique talent and way of doing things, and the best driver. I wish Alonso commited to stay with them so they could get a big sponsor like Banco Santander and win 3,4 or 5 more WDCs.

    I would hate to see Alonso in Ferrari. That team is tainted because of the extra money they receive and the use they make of stewards decisions against other teams. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING : performance-wise, with all the new rules, whatever minimal advantage Ferrari can offer over Renault will be more than offset by the fact that Renault will design, develop, set up and race their cars to Alonso´s liking.
    Besides all this, Alonso will step into a hornet´s nest of politics in Ferrari, and have to contend with an ultrafast Massa. After one year, I´ll bet he will want to leave – might as well stay with Uncle Flav and keep winning those WDCs.

    What Renault really has to improve is the team image, specially the livery, which is terrible. ING and Renault spend a lot of money and then their image suffers very much by those children´s toy car looks. On the contrary, any sponsor featured on the elegant McLaren is perceived as a high-class brand. Sponsors on the Renault car appear as a low-class brand due to the livery. This is hurting very much their search for sponsors.
    I support Ron Dennis´s policy that every detail contributes towards the image of a team. Even Hamilton´s father appears in the pits with a nice jacket often. Renault and Alonso have to be careful with these things so that they have an easier time finding new sponsors. Companies want their name to be asociated with a classy, tasteful livery, and right now Renault have the worst looks by far in F1.

    So, PLEASE Renault and Alonso stay together, find a big sponsor like Santander and win more WDCs !!!
    NO to Ferrari, YES to finding a good artist for the livery
    cheers and good luck !

  8. “They returned as engine manufacturers within a few years and enjoyed huge success with Williams and Renault from 1992-1997, winning 11 out of 12 titles in that period.”

    Benetton you mean.

    1. D’oh!


  9. Depends on what’s doing Alonso with Ferrari or not and if Flavio is going to retire, if both of them quite, Renault is finished…
    I think.

  10. I’ll be surprised if the team isn’t up for sale just after the last race this year (or maybe even before that). They’re downsizing already, and there’s plenty of speculation that this is to make the team leaner and more attractive to a potential buyer.

    1. I hope that if someone buys them , it is a company with class like Mercedes or else maybe some important car company like VW-Porsche. I believe Alonso could win this year, so they could get both team and driver and continue winning at the highest level. It would be a good deal for a buyer, as long as Alonso forgets about a foolish move to Ferrari.
      I believe that if Alonso wins and they can create a new classy image and livery, they can find new sponsors and Renault will stay.

  11. I think Keith has this pretty much spot on. Renault like Honda have arrived in F1 and then with little notice left again and no doubt that is what they will do this time. Carlos Ghosn has made no secret of the fact that he is not an F1 fan and will not subsidise the team. So long as the team is self financing, succeeding and is not a political problem they will stay. As soon as any of those conditions is met they will be gone faster than a British summer.

    I don’t understand why anyone would think Alonso staying would make a difference. The biggest problem now is the fact that the French government is putting money into the company. Bear in mind this is a company which quit F1 before because they ddn’t think it was right to put money into it when they were laying off staff even though they were a lot more successful then than now.

    I don’t see Renault doing much on the track this year. They will be in the midfield pack and won’t do better than fifth in the constructors championship.

  12. Saw this one comming, After the US gave them (the American Branch) Bail out money, I figured they would not beable to stay in F1.

  13. To bad the world went against tabacoo advertisment. Now those guys had no problem shelling out money.

    1. Yeah, you could say that, but the banks didn’t have a problem with the money either until this last fall…

      I was and always will be 100% behind the banning of tobacco adverts, and while I may be in the minority, I wouldn’t be nearly as big of a supporter of F1 if the tobacco ads were still around. For example, there is no way I would shell out all the money on McLaren gear I have if a tobacco brand was splattered all over the stuff.

      The one sponsorship deal that never seems in danger is Philip Morris and Ferrari, so your point is valid- I just think the bank model is just as good in good business conditions.

  14. RBS will be the next to drop. check out their 2-3 year stock graph…

  15. To be truthful I dont miss the tabacoo either but they were willing to shell out the money. Granted I used to be a pack a day smoker and that stuff gets expensive quick. I just rember a few years ago that was the majoriy of the field sponsors. I belive F1 will survive. I am not sure how well with the amount of bickering I see from the top. Maybe Bernie and Max shouold talk to Brian France of NASCAR on how to help teams and fans in these hard times. They are trying, but I feel like the FIA seemse to be more on the if you dont pay we will take the sport to who will. I hope F1 makes it, I do love the sport.

  16. This is not good.

  17. Yeah, you guys are right about tobacco sponsorship, they wouldn’t be affected at all. I’m a smoker, but I dont condone tobacco adverts, but hey, if it means keeping the sport I love alive, anything goes.

    The only industry capable of withstanding the crisis is the Vices Industry, correct? Whatever happens, people are going to have a fag and a few pints, which is why I’m quite surpised that there aren’t that many alcohol beverage companies showing up as sponsors. We’ve got Johnny Walker on the Macs…is there anything else?

    It would be sad to see Renault leave the sport, but keep in mind that there are major cost cutting efforts going on for next year, so they may get away with it with a smaller sponsor. If Alonso decides to stay who’s to say that Satander wouldn’t jump to Renault? Renault is a company that’s alway centered its marketing round its success in F1, so they may not drop it too quickly, having said that, weirder things have happened.

    1. I thought the Dieago (?) sponsorship would bring a whole carload of rivals into the sport – especially since most are global companies these days. Talking of Vice Sponsorship though, would Playboy return I wonder (and black cars too?) :-)
      On a more serious note about Renault – surely now Bernie and Max have to swallow their pride and allow the Manufacturers just to supply engines/chassis to whoever wants to buy them? If we lose any more teams there will be no point in the others racing….

  18. Solution = Santander back Renault (because of Alonso)

    You’re quite right Keith – Santander posted a healthy profit last financial year (along with other Spanish banks) due to tighter regulations on lending, thus less financial right-offs.

    Another solution = VW/Porsche enter/re-enter F1. They’ve got the cash, the resources and the pedigree – plus they can compete with their natural enemies (Merc/BMW) for motorsport kudos. Porsche made around 40 billion Euros in the last fin year through trading of VW options alone!! (car sales only made them around 1bn Euros).

    Hurry up and save F1 ya ********!!

    1. Santander wont back Renault. They already signed a contract with Ferrari, when Alonso was with Renault (although the rumours of a switch to Ferrari in 2009 were still ongoing).

      In fact, this is a good indication that Alonso will go to Ferrari eventually!

    2. If VW Group enter F1, they will probably do it with Red Bull, as they have big ties there already – I thought RBR had been talking to VW about supplying engines already? Maybe the situation just doesn’t suit them.

  19. Lets be honest, you don’t need expensive advertising to sell beer.

  20. The company I work for sponsors Renault F1.
    I won’t mention the name, but it’s a minor sponsor. You can see the company name when you get the large hi-res photos :D
    When I found out about the sponsorship, I was pretty excited being an F1 fan. Free tickets sprung to mind. Well No! Not a chance. There were 2 competitions for staff last year. Both gave out free t-shirt \ cap & bodywarmer. The rather minor sponsorship also allowed the company to visit 2 test sessions. But these were not opened up to staff. :( They were to wow current and potential clients. We get to see the Renault F1 pics all over the company posters \ screensaver \ wallpaper too. :( Good job this hasn’t been enforced by GPO.

    So if Renault do leave F1 I couldn’t be happier. Perhaps they’ll be some money in the pot for a pay rise. Wishful thinking….

  21. I’d say better than 50:50 chance Renault will be gone for 2010….. ouch :(

  22. Headline figures from Renault’s financial statements make grim reading:

    Revenues for the year were €37,791 million, down 7% over the year and 28.7% in the final quarter
    Operating margin came to €212million

    * End-2008 inventory was down €666million compared with 2007
    * Automobile’s net financial debt increased by €5,856million to €7,944million owing to a sharp reduction in activity coupled with yen appreciation
    * At end-December 2008, the Group had €4.2billion in confirmed credit agreements for Automobile, of which €518 million drawn down, and €5.2 billion for Sales Financing, of which €753 million has been used. In addition, the French government has announced a loan of €3 billion, and a two-fold increase in RCI Banque’s drawing facilities at Société de Financement de l’Economie Française (SFEF) to €1billion.

  23. “goIng goIng gone” was surely the headline keith?

  24. I think the next wave of big sponsorship is going to be oil companies. I know they play a large role right now, but not as large as banks. With the recent oil prices ******* everyone off and talks of global warming these companies could use some image boosts.

Comments are closed.