Renault bid farewell to Formula One

Motor racing

Renault, who have provided the power behind seven world championship titles, are to leave Formula One at the end of next season.

Yesterday's announcement by the French engine-makers had been expected for some time, the company clearly feeling that, after years of success since their return to top-line racing in 1989, the only way was down. It had reached a stage, they admitted, where their wins were being taken for granted.

Honda reached a similar stage when they pulled out of the sport and, indeed, had been eclipsed. Now it is expected they will return and perhaps link up with Williams again in 1998. That year marks the 50th anniversary of the Japanese manufacturer.

Frank Williams, whose Williams team partnered Renault to the summit of Formula One, said: "This is sad news for us and for all motor racing. Renault have been fabulously successful and as partners first class to work with."

Damon Hill, the world championship leader, who has achieved all his 18 grand prix wins with Renault engines, said: "I have worked with them for six years so I'm saddened that they are leaving. But all things change and I appreciate their reasons. I'm footloose and fancy-free at the end of the season and the decision may have some bearing on my future.

"Reliability has always been their strong point. Their performance and desire to win has not diminished at all. We've just tested a new engine today and may use it in France next week."

Flavio Briatore, the managing director of Benetton, Renault's other partners, said: "It is disappointing Renault have made this decision, but we appreciate their reasons and thank them for everything they have done with us. But that is Formula One: It changes, it goes on, and now we must look for a new engine partner."

Renault, who are in line to seal a fifth constructors' title this year, will announce plans for a new sporting strategy soon. "The goal the company set itself in 1989 has been largely surpassed thanks to the know-how and commitment of the Renault Sport team, with the backing of the Renault company as a whole," read a Renault statement. "Renault Sport will continue to operate after 1997 as an independent unit."

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