LONDON (Reuters) - Two of the longest running sagas of the Formula One season have ended in the space of 24 hours and, with Renault and Red Bull’s involvement no longer in doubt, the future looks a whole lot brighter going into the European winter.
Formula One is never far from a crisis and still has plenty of problems to resolve, not least ensuring its engines are both affordable and available, but it can now look forward to 2016 with some confidence.
Renault, who had been mulling whether to walk away or raise their commitment by returning as a full constructor, announced on Thursday that they were following through with the purchase of struggling Lotus.
Had they not done so, a third of the staff at the Lotus factory in central England would likely have lost their jobs, with many questioning the team’s ability to survive.
Instead, there is likely to be much more investment and stability for former champions who had struggled to pay the most basic of bills, faced bailiffs in Belgium and were locked out of their paddock hospitality in Japan.
Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso had warned they could walk away if they failed to secure a competitive engine following a falling-out with current engine partner Renault.
Dominant Mercedes had said no, Ferrari were willing only to supply year-old units at a hefty price and McLaren exercised their veto on Honda stepping in.
In the end that left a reconciliation, or at least an understanding, with Renault as the only option and that was duly secured -- helped by the French manufacturer’s decision to commit to the sport as a whole.
Toro Rosso meanwhile lined up a deal with Ferrari to use this year’s engines, an agreement that should give Dutch teen sensation Max Verstappen and young Spaniard Carlos Sainz the chance to impress again.
“It’s great to be working with Ferrari again,” said Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost. “We had a fruitful relationship in the past and I‘m sure it won’t take long for us all to be working together very well again.”
With the three teams now secured, and the U.S.-based Haas F1 making their debut next year, there should be 11 outfits in the paddock in 2016 after just 10 this year following the demise of Caterham.
If Red Bull’s announcement looked like something of a U-turn, bearing in mind their very public criticism of Renault earlier in the year, it will still have amused team principal Christian Horner.
McLaren head Ron Dennis was robust in his response to Horner, telling him in no uncertain terms where he could go when the Red Bull boss made an approach to that team’s engine partners Honda.
Having failed to get the engine, Horner appears to have made off with the watch instead.
Swiss luxury watch brand Tag Heuer, now owned by LVMH, were previously McLaren’s partners for 30 years and even had their name on the engine in the 1980s when Porsche supplied the Woking-based team.
To add even more spice to the mix, the Renault engine side will be assisted by Ilmor -- whose Swiss head Mario Illien worked closely with Red Bull’s technical head and design genius Adrian Newey at McLaren in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“TAG Heuer has been an icon in the world of Formula One for many years and we’re delighted that they’ve chosen to continue their association with the sport by teaming up with us,” declared Horner on Friday.
”Our shared values of innovation and a desire to stand out from the crowd make this one of the most exciting partnerships in F1.
“We are also pleased to see Renault confirm its long-term commitment to F1 and would like to thank them for their contribution to the team since 2007. Their technical partnership with Ilmor gives us confidence, and we look forward to the 2016 season.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman