French manufacturer Renault will return to the Formula One grid in 2016 after formally completing its takeover of the financially ailing Lotus team yesterday.
The car giant completed a share purchase agreement and confirmed that it would settle the debts owed by Lotus to HM Revenue and Customs and other creditors, which in turn signalled the end of the legal case against the Enstone-based team.
Lotus has been the subject of a long-running High Court case due to unpaid tax bills, relating to both income tax and national insurance, with HM Revenue and Customs applying to put the team into administration over the mounting debts.
Following several adjournments to the case, Lotus and Renault were given until 21 December to put a takeover deal in place. With the court reconvening yesterday, Renault lawyers confirmed the takeover, saying: “We have the keys, so to speak.”
HM Revenue and Customs was granted permission by Mr Justice Birss to withdraw the application, while three winding-up petitions were also dismissed.
Renault sold the Oxfordshire outfit to investment group Genii Capital in 2009 and quit the sport as a constructor, but remained involved as an engine builder.
After two tough campaigns under new power unit regulations, their relationship with Red Bull broke down, which has resulted in Renault taking the decision to return as a full constructor.
Renault have previously won four F1 drivers’ titles, two as Benetton with Michael Schumacher in 1994 and 1995, and two as Renault with Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006.
Venezuela’s Pastor Maldonado and British rookie Jolyon Palmer have already been confirmed as Renault’s drivers for next season after Romain Grosjean opted to join Haas.