Long-time Renault Formula 1 boss Cyril Abiteboul has left the company and will not head up the Alpine brand as expected.
Abiteboul headed up Renault’s sporting department and oversaw its F1 project, initially as an engine supplier and then as a works team from 2016.
He was put in charge of the company’s plan to make the Alpine sub-brand a more substantial part of its business model, which included rebranding the Renault F1 team in the Alpine name for 2021.
Abiteboul was rumoured to be shifting into a less F1-focused role this year to concentrate on the Alpine side of the business, and that speculation was intensified by ex-Suzuki MotoGP team manager Davide Brivio being linked to the Alpine CEO role and a suggestion that Renault’s executive director Marcin Budkowski would take charge of the F1 team.
However, it was revealed on Monday that Abiteboul is leaving Groupe Renault, with Laurent Rossi being named Alpine CEO.
Renault says Rossi will “take charge of Alpine Cars, Sport, F1 and competition activities”, reporting to Renault CEO Luca de Meo.
It is unclear what this means for the leadership of the F1 team and how Budkowski and expected new arrival Brivio will fit into the structure.
Abiteboul’s departure follows Jerome Stoll’s resignation as Renault Sport Racing president at the end of 2020. It means two high-profile senior figures depart ahead of the Alpine transformation.
Budkowski replaced Stoll as a director of the Renault F1 team’s parent company, which has been formally renamed Alpine Racing Limited in the UK.
“I would like to thank the Groupe Renault for having trusted me for many years, particularly with the relaunch and reconstruction of the team since 2016,” said Abiteboul.
“The solid foundations of the racing team and the entities in France and England built over these years, the strategic evolution of the sport towards a more economically sustainable model, and more recently the Alpine project which provides a renewed sense of meaning and dynamism, all point to a very fine trajectory.
“I would like to thank Luca de Meo for involving me in the construction of the Alpine Business Unit and I wish the new structure every success.”
De Meo thanked Abiteboul for his “relentless involvement” in the Renault F1 programme, which began with a miserable 2016 season that was not unexpected given the late takeover of the former Lotus team that Renault had sold its Enstone operation to a few years before.
However, Renault failed to live up to the targets laid out at the launch of its revived works team in 2016, as Abiteboul was among the senior management to define a five-year plan that would make the manufacturer a championship challenger by 2020.
Last year Renault was fifth in the constructors’ championship for a second successive year, though it did at least finally end its podium drought with Daniel Ricciardo.
Abiteboul also oversaw the return of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who will end a two-season F1 sabbatical to partner Esteban Ocon at Alpine in 2021.
De Meo said that Abiteboul’s “remarkable work in F1 since 2007 allows us to look to the future, with a strong team and the new Alpine F1 Team identity to conquer the podiums this year”.
Abiteboul worked at Renault for 20 years. He began to assume senior roles in 2007 as business development manager for the F1 team, and went on to be named deputy executive director of Renault Sport.
He joined Renault customer team Caterham in 2012 as CEO and also became team principal, but returned to Renault two years later as part of the manufacturer’s bid to turn around its poor start to the V6 turbo-hybrid formula.
Abiteboul was named team principal when Renault opted to have a works F1 team again in 2016 and maintained that role to the end of the 2020 season.