Renault and Red Bull – A messy divorce
Translated from the original article on Auto Motor & Sport
Red Bull’s Motorsport Consultant Dr. Helmut Marko is normally a quite outspoken man, who doesn’t evade a straight answer. When asked about what engine the team will be running in 2016 however, the Austrian is uncharacteristically tight-lipped: “The official answer is that we have a contract with Renault until the end of the 2016 season. According to the information available to us, Renault will decide about their future before the Monza GP and we will respond accordingly.”
Rumours tell a different story. Scuttlebutt has it that Red Bull have terminated their contract with Renault last week, citing the bad results and lack of progress on behalf of Renault. An exit clause allowing them to do that is believed to be part of the contract.
The trust between Renault and Red Bull is irreparably destroyed. The situation is not helped by the fact that Renault have wasted four development token on a new evolution of the PU, coming at the Sochi GP, that is expected to bring a gain of only 0.150 seconds per lap. If all those whispers in the paddock are true, Renault has told their disgruntled customer that they won’t accept a contract termination under any circumstances. In that case the divorce would become messy and decided in court.
A lawsuit would be bad for Red Bull, as Mercedes would not supply engines in that case. In principle the German company is willing to supply the Austrian team, but does not want to be the reason for legal action between a future customer and another manufacturer. On top of that, Mercedes and Renault have started a joint venture in their road car divisions in autumn of 2014 and the Stuttgart based manufacturer would not want to step on the toes of Renault’s CEO Carlos Ghosn.
When asked why they would supply a direct opponent, Mercedes’ answer is unmistakable. “Internal competition improves the business. If we want to become world champions we have to beat everyone.”
Decision before Monza
The part of Marko’s statement that’s definitely true is that Renault will decide until then whether or not they buy Lotus and if the comeback as a works team will happen in 2016 or a year later. Theoretically that does not have any influence on the supply of Red Bull and Toro Rosso, as Renault plans to honor the current contracts, including the ‘premium status’ of Red Bull Racing.
Dr. Marko, however, adds that the team could adapt the 2016 car to a different engine as late as December without disrupting the preparation for the next season.
Renault have Red Bull by the proverbial balls. Even if that exit clause exists, they just need to do a Monisha and ignore the conditions they once agreed to. If Red Bull goes to court to enforce their contractual rights, they’ll get what is rightfully theirs in the same way as VdG still got no drive in March, because Mercedes will chicken out.
It’s a clever move on behalf of Mercedes. They force RB to go with Renault another year before they get some serious competition. By then they will have won three consecutive titles with Lewis and all but one fan base will be as fed up with them as people were with Vettel and Red Bull. Bringing in a strong opponent will spare them the PR backlash that RB was subjected to after years of dominance, but not before securing enough silverware.
Record penalty and a dirty trick for McLaren
The two McLaren drivers have incurred an eye-watering combined grid penalty of 105 positions for the Belgian Grandprix. In practical terms, that means they will start in Zandvoort. The Woking team exploited a loophole in the changed regulations. Last season grid penalties that couldn’t be served were to be carried over to the next race, which in McLaren’s case would have meant they’d be starting bog last for the next ten years. However, this year, no matter how many positions you have to drop, after the start it is considered served.
McLaren exploited that fact and installed two new engines in both cars on Friday and Saturday, knowing they would start last anyway after the 30 place penalty for Alonso and 25 place penalty for Button on Friday. Now with the record breaking 105 place drop, nothing will change, but they have two fresh engines each in the pool for both cars that they can install at will for future races without incurring any penalties.