If Christian Horner were the CEO of a proper organisation that had to actually make something or provide a service that people would pay good money for – repeatedly, his tenure at the top may be short lived.
When commercial entities make huge mistakes, they must first admit the errors of their ways and secondly purpose to do better – in order to regain and keep the trust of their customers.
Red Bull racing have persistently pressed their ‘engine supply department’ (they consider themselves after all a works team) to bring upgrades to their power unit since the season off in Australia.
Down under, Renault delivered an engine with greater performance as requested by RBR, however it was not tested to the reliability standards Renault had set out in the development programme.
The result was the Red Bull cars were quicker than in testing – yet they pay back was equally predictable from a Renault perspective. Danny Kvyat didn’t make it to the starting grid.
We were then provided to a spectacular Royal Rymble of words over the next few weeks, as Red Bull Racing’s senior figures repeatedly lambasted their engine supplier in public.
Spice Boy described the French manufacturer’s engine programme as “a bit of a mess” and guru designer Adrian Newey observed there appeared to be no “light at the end of the tunnel.”
Cyril Abiteboul responded in a manner not typical of a French stereotype, and began by complementing Guru Newey. “Adrian is a charming man and an outstanding engineer but he has spent his life criticising his engine manufacturers. And he’s too old to change.”
The with just eight words, delivered like the swift of hand required from Madame guillotines finest operator, he added: “It’s hard to have a partner who lies.”
Renault began to produce numbers suggesting the RB11 was not in fact Newey’s finest creation and should shoulder a significant proportion of the blame for the failure of the overall package of chassis and engine. This was difficult to refute given Toro Rosso’s relative performance with the same and at times older iteration of the Renault power unit.
It was all down hill from there, “You smell…,” and, “he smells worse… .” and even “they all smell of garlic over there.”
The rhetoric grew and grew until eventually a truce was called.
The good doctor Marko came to the rescue and told Servus TV, “All of this criticism was due to emotions that were all quite understandable.” Apparently liar in French doesn’t mean the same as in English and German – so all was well with the world once again.
“In fact, perhaps the comments themselves were not even so hard,” Marko explained, “but the translation of Cyril’s words from French made it sound very harsh.”
So what was the plan to prevent this civil war from breaking out again – and make the truce last at least to the half way point of the season?
“We have met,” Marko confirmed, “and decided on how we will work during the remainder of the season. We do not have to love each other, but we do need an engine that works.”
Renault’s gripe was that Red Bull continual pushed them to deliver incremental performance, when they first wanted to deliver reliability and then turn up the Horse Power. The latter approach of course leads to many more engine failures and 25 place grid penalties.
One of Renault’s ideas for deploying engine development tokens has been to examine the concepts with single cylinder prototypes at their base in Viry Chatillon.
Christian Horner told SKY F1 at the British Grand Prix, “As far as I am aware I think that they [Renault] are making good progress on their dyno, They now have some strategic decisions about implementation, and the direction they want to take their development for the rest of this season – and that has an enormous impact on next year.”
However, Red Bull have Force India breathing down their neck in the constructors’ championship and are again desperate for improved performance as Horner admits.
“Like any competitive team we want performance yesterday, and unfortunately with engines the lead time is a lot longer than with the chassis. Patience is something that we are not really good at. We want to have performance as soon as possible…”
Whether this pressure will spark a renewed public war of words – possibly even before the season is even half way over – we shall know in the coming week.
The timing of the next round of Red Bull – Renault recriminations will likely be influenced by the performance of the teams chasing Red Bull for fourth place in the championship.
At the last race in Silverstone, Red Bull again failed to get both cars to the finish. Meanwhile, Force India who are still getting to grips with the best way to configure their new 2015 car matched the 8 points scored by Red Bull, and are quietly hoping to be even stronger next time out in Hungary.
Vijay Mallya is clearly delighted with the arrival of this seasons racing car – despite it being 6 months late – and described it in the Friday Press Conference at the British GP as looking, “lean and mean”.