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At the start of the season when it became evident that the Renault power unit had made no significant gains on its rivals, leading to a war of words between Viry and Milton Keynes.
The rift became so great between the two former all conquering allies, it led to threats from those within the Red Bull hierarchy to quit the sport unless the rules on engine development was relaxed.
The day after the 2015 Canadian Grand Prix, Red Bull’s Christian Horner warned that Formula 1 risks driving Renault out of the sport, unless the engine development rules don’t change.
There has been a call from the engine manufacturers to allow in season development for 2016, though Mercedes alone is believed to be resisting this.
In season development this year has only been allowed due to an error by the FIA. They failed to put a closing date in the regulations by which the engines should be homologated. That error has been corrected for 2016 and any change would require unanimous agreement from the F1 engine manufacturers.
Further, Charlie Whiting has recently made it more difficult for the engine manufacturers to change unreliable components on their power units. Cyril Abiteboul recently commented, between the three engine suppliers in 2014 more than 50 of these ‘exception’ alterations to the engine designs had been agreed.
Mercedes currently argue that in-season engine development increases costs, though their competitive advantage is also neatly protected to a certain degree by freezing engines on February 28th 2016.
However, Honda and Renault who both are currently struggling, could be locked into an engine configuration for a whole season which put simply, ‘is just not at the races’.
The Red Bull team principle fears that such a scenario would be unacceptable for Renault and warns that Mercedes should do what is best for the sport of Formula One, and not block this rule change as they attempted to do for this year.
Asked if he felt Mercedes would back down from their stance on the issue, he replied, “they don’t have to obviously, but the situation is we are at a precarious point in terms of Renault’s commitment to the future.”
“If you are effectively shutting that down in February, you are almost waving goodbye to them.
“So [Mercedes] need to have a bit of a grown-up think about it. And the FIA as well to say what is in the best interests of F1.
“If F1 can afford to lose an engine manufacturer, then stick to February 28.”
The 2016 regulations state that engine designs will be frozen from February 28 next year, after which no further performance improvements will be allowed.
Horner reiterates that such an outcome would make it almost impossible for Renault to see a positive future in F1.
“From Renault’s perspective, it is the worst thing for them,” he said. “Then, the engines are effectively frozen forever after.
“If you have missed it by February 28, the scale of difference is unachievable in that timeframe.
“So really as these regulations still are relatively immature, it would be sensible, as this year, to allow development in the season.”
Yet Christian is clearly advocating something that improves Red Bull’s competitiveness, but was never agreed in the regulations. Renault accepted the no in season development rule when they were part of the working party designing regulations for the new V6 Turbo power units.
Further, will Renault really pull out? The after all were one of the main protagonists insisting on a new design and that the V8’s be consigned to history.
Renault have clearly been investigating the possibility of entering their own works team and Franz Tost recently revealed the French manufacturer has had preliminary talks to acquire Toro Rosso.
In a bizarre twist of F1 fate, it could be Red Bull who are out in the cold – or needing to do what McLaren did with Honda. It would then be in Red Bull’s interest to see in season engine development for their new power unit partner.