RETURN TO F1: Renault will return to F1 in 2016 as a racing team, as it completes its purchase of struggling Lotus. Image: AFP / Mohd Rasfan
London - French automaker Renault will return to F1 as a racing team in its own name next season after agreeing to take over Lotus.
Renault, which has been an engine supplier to other teams in recent seasons, said in a statement that the principal contracts for the takeover were signed Thursday and it planned to finalize "the terms of the acquisition of Lotus F1 Team in the shortest timeframe possible."
Renault chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn, said: "Renault had two options: to come back at 100 percent or leave. After a detailed study, I have decided that Renault will be in Formula 1, starting 2016. Our ambition is to win -- even if it will take some time."
The announcement ends months of speculation about Renault's plans for the sport and whether it would seek a higher profile.
The company said in its statement: "Lotus F1 Team effectively stands out as the best partner. Renault and Lotus F1 Team have known each other for 15 years and were world champions together in 2005 and 2006."
Between racing in its own colors and supplying other teams, Renault has claimed 168 race wins, 12 constructors' world titles and 11 drivers' championships since making its F1 debut in 1977.
It withdrew as a works' team from the constructor world championship in 2010, switching to the role of engine supplier.
Renault clearly indicated that it felt the company hadn't gained sufficient credit with the general and sporting public for its role behind the scenes - despite providing the engines that enabled Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull to win every title from 2010 to 2013.
It said: "As a full team, Renault will take maximum benefit from its victories. The payback as an engine supplier proved to be limited. The return on the investment necessitated by the new engine regulations and the return in terms of image were low."
Meanwhile, the company outfit has faced criticism of its engines' performance this season from Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who has had to watch Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes sweep the board for the past two seasons.
Changes in F1 regulations, though, appear to have proved decisive.
Ghosn said: "The final details supplied by F1's main stakeholders gave us the confidence to accept this new challenge."
Renault also remains very positive about the global reach of F1, describing it "as one of the sports that enjoys the most media coverage worldwide ... particularly in emerging markets. It attracts 450 million television viewers annually and its scope for growth is enormous."