Jun.2 (GMM) Bob Bell’s shock switch to the F1 backmarker Manor has added fuel to speculation about the future of engine supplier Renault.
Earlier, former Mercedes technical chief Bell was said to have returned to Renault, where in 2009 he emerged through the ‘crashgate’ scandal to be the works team’s boss.
After that, Renault sold its Enstone based outfit to Lotus, and Bell moved to Mercedes.
But he left the dominant German camp last year and was reportedly once again a central figure at Renault as the French carmaker considers its next steps in F1.
Renault has been openly contemplating returning to full works team status in F1, given its tumultuous relationship with Red Bull in the new ‘power unit’ era.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport reports that Renault officials met in Monaco with Matthew Carter, the Lotus team chief executive, about buying back Enstone.
But the report also said Renault chairman Carlos Ghosn was trackside in Monte Carlo, where he joined a representative of French oil partner Total in a meeting with Bernie Ecclestone.
“It is clear that Renault wants to return to being its own team,” said correspondent Michael Schmidt.
The now Renault-linked Bell’s move to Manor, then, was completely unexpected.
But also noteworthy is that, joining Bell in switching to the former Marussia team is engineer Gianluca Pisanello, formerly of Caterham and Toyota.
Schmidt said both Bell and Pisanello have in recent weeks been linked with the proposed new Renault works team being championed by Cyril Abiteboul and brand ambassador Alain Prost.
He wondered: “Will Manor be Renault’s new factory team?”