There is some mystery around how the selection is made of who will appear at the FIA press conferences during the F1 weekends. Whilst they bear the name of the organisation which governs the sport, Bernie Ecclestone’s mischievous hand is in play behind the scenes.
After one of the most vehement public exchanges in recent Formula One history between Red Bull and their engine supplier, Renault, today’s team principal press conference saw the CEO of Renault sat front row centre, flanked by the French engine manufacturer’s customers in the form of Christian Horner and Franz Tost.
There were varying messages sent back and forth, though it became clear that should Renault decide to quit Formula One, then Red Bull too could be forced from the sport.
“I can confirm that we are looking at a lot of options, including getting out of Formula 1,” said Abiteboul, CEO of Renault Sport F1.
“Honestly, if Formula 1 is that bad for Renault’s reputation, if we see that we struggle with the current formula, if Formula 1 is not delivering the value that it costs Renault bearing in mind that when you have an engine supplier, you have no financial incentive to develop and fund engine development, then this is what we’re looking at”.
Christian Horner seized this opportunity to re-interpret the threats issued by Helmut Marko during the Australian GP that Red Bull may withdraw from F1.
“I think what he was trying to say was should we find ourselves in a situation where we are without an a engine supplier, should Renault choose to withdraw, Mercedes wouldn’t supply Red Bull with an engine and it’s unlikely we would be in a position to take a Ferrari engine – So we could actually find ourselves forced out of the sport”.
F1 fans will make up their own mind whether this is a fleet of foot opportunistic re-writing of history, or whether the good doctor’s comments were lost in translation.
It does though appear that Renault’s ‘enough is enough’ response to constant criticism from their engine customer has had some effect because both Red Bull drivers were positive following their track time during the Friday practice sessions.
Despite having restricted running in the afternoon with a ‘technical problem’, Daniel Ricciardo believes big steps have been made since Melbourne.
“Some things are definitely positive and the bulk of the driveability issues we had in Melbourne are a lot better now,” the Aussie stated. “The car was a lot nicer to drive.
“We got to do a few set-up things this morning then we had a few issues this afternoon which limited our running.
“But there are some positives and we got some good feedback from Danny [Kvyat] – he wasn’t too far off the pace of the Ferrari’s so that’s good and encouraging for tomorrow.”
Kyat set the fourth quickest time of the day, and whilst less effusive than his Australian team mate he believes progress has been made.
“The right steps and the right direction are most important and this is what is happening at the moment.
“We are obviously more satisfied, but we’re never fully satisfied until things are perfect.”
The irony of the Red Bull/Renault forced marriage of inconvenience will be lost on no one here in Sepang. If one quits, the other is up a creek without a paddle. But the bottom line following two weeks of abusive exchanges is that Red Bull have clearly had their card marked.
Renault will not put up with the consistent battering of negative publicity and have other options besides being forced to service the demands of the Red Bull family.
And Horner has admitted, Red Bull have nowhere to go for another engine supplier – along with the fact that Helmut Marko is just ‘misunderstood’.