Renault CEO did not want to be team’s ‘gravedigger’

Sam Cooper
Renault CEO Luca de Meo. Nurburg, Germany October 2020.

Renault CEO Luca de Meo walks the pit lane at the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix. Nurburg, Germany October 2020.

Renault CEO Luca de Meo has said he was happy to not be the team’s “gravedigger” after being told the F1 operation would be wound up when he joined.

The 54-year-old Italian became CEO of the French car manufacturer in July 2020 having previously been president of Skoda for the last five years.

Renault has been in F1 as an engine supplier since the 1977 British Grand Prix but when de Meo joined, he was hit with the news that the company was planning on withdrawing from the sport.

“When I arrived I was told that the commitment to F1 would end,” he said, as reported by Formula Passion.

“That was the end of 40 years of history in the sport. I opposed it, because I never wanted to be the F1 gravedigger within the group.”

It has proved to be a wise choice with the Renault team since returning to the podium at the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix and now, following the rebrand to Alpine, the team is proving to be one of the quickest on the 2022 grid.

As one of four power unit suppliers, de Meo said continuing in the sport was “fundamental for the worldwide exposure of the brand.”

“Together with Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes there are four of us building a complete package to run in F1,” he said as he was presented with French magazine Le Journal dell’Automobile’s Man of the Year award.

“Many consider this category simply as a huge waste of money with very high costs, but the racing activity is fundamental for the worldwide exposure of the brand.”

Since rebranding as Alpine, the team have celebrated a race win with Esteban Ocon in Hungary 2021 and welcomed Fernando Alonso back.

It is the Spaniard who has so far shown the kind of pace that made him a two-time World Champion but reliability issues have damaged his and the team’s points total.

Despite this, De Meo was optimistic and said he thought the team was in the top three when it comes to speed.

“We have improved compared to last year and the team is also more solid at management level with the arrival of Otmar Szafnauer.

“We have a long-term programme, Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said last October of a plan to win 100 Grands Prix, but in F1 you can never tell. You also need a bit of luck.

“We are creating the conditions to win, but then it can happen like at Paris Saint-Germain, stuffed with champions and always eliminated in the Champions League.”


Alpine could find themselves in the mix

After an impressive Australia showing, Alpine could back that up again this weekend.