Red Bull Racing appears to be in a curious position with no power unit for 2016.
Dietrich Mateschitz has threatened to leave Formula One, despite the Red Bull contract with FOM to remain in Formula One – which runs to 2020 and gives them certain privileges.
There have been widespread reports that Red Bull have served notice on Renault to terminate their contract for power unit supply at the end of this season.
Christian Horner has admitted Red Bull Racing approached Mercedes for power unit supply in 2016, but was rejected.
“On the one hand you can understand Toto [Wolff, Mercedes motorsport boss] in that they see Red Bull as a threat,” Horner told reporters in Singapore.
“They’re probably not that keen to see one of their biggest assets supplied to a competitor. Toto made his position pretty clear.
“To be honest, we expected it. Toto, from the word go, was never a fan of supplying Red Bull. It was his board that was perhaps more interested than he was.
“But it’s not an option, so now we focus our attentions elsewhere.”
Ferrari have made it clear publicly that they would supply Red Bull in 2016 and given the state of Honda’s current efforts – this appear to be the only solution open to the Milton Keynes based F1 team.
Yet there’s still no progress on the Red Bull Ferrari partnership story and when asked today whether Red Bull Racing would be in F1 next year, Horner cryptically replied, “that depends on the desire of other parties for us to be in Formula 1.
“If we don’t have an engine, we can’t compete.
This week we saw Renault’s top man – Carlos Ghosn – who was visibly irritated – reveal at the Frankfurt motor show that Renault would not be supplying customer teams with power units any longer.
“We have been clear in saying ‘don’t count on us as a provider of engines’. It is clear that if you provide engines you aren’t mentioned when you win and you are criticised when you have problems.
“We already alerted the Formula 1 authorities that ‘Don’t count on us as a provider of an engine. It’s over’”.
Ghosn made it clear that the breakdown in the Renault Red Bull relationship was irreversible, when asked whether any of Red Bull’s criticisms of his company were fair.
“It is not a question of fair, it is a question of sportsmanship. A team should win and lose together. What has been said is a question of sportsmanship. Again I say, you should win and lose together.”
Ghosn concluded his press conference confirming no decision has yet been made on Renault’s F1 future. “We will either exit or run our own team. We don’t have a clear decision yet.”
Yet TJ13 has learned there is a strong feeling amongst senior Red Bull personnel that the team will in fact still be using a Renault F1 power unit in 2016 and today in Singapore, Christian Horner was careful with his words.
“Before discussing any other engine scenario it’s important for us to understand what Renault’s plans are for 2016. They seem to be formulating.
“We will be sitting down with Renault to discuss that before committing or having anything else to talk about publicly.
“So for us, first of all, let’s focus on understanding what the Renault situation is, and then we can really address what our options are for the future.
If Ghosn is to be believed, Renault have made their position crystal clear. No more customer supply of power units. They will either buy a team or leave F1.
So however bizarre – there is a solution that would see Red Bull running a Renault power unit in 2016 – were the French company to buy the Milton Keynes team, together with their historic payment privileges.
Red Bull Racing running a Ferrari engine will almost certainly find themselves repeatedly behind the Maranello team, week in week out.
It also would be impossible for Red Bull to have commissioned/developed an F1 power unit that would be competitive in 2016 – despite the goings on in the secret building 9 with its 40 strong staff and full size Virtual Test Track.
The travails of Honda surely demonstrate the difficulty of building a competitive V6 hybrid F1 engine; and despite the Red Bull recruitment of Mario Illien of Ilmor fame – a competitive bespoke power unit in the next few years looks to be a bridge too far for any new entrant.
Add to this the current significance of having highly developed fuel and lubricants for the V6 Turbo hybrid power units fuel and lubricants, and Red Bull are no where on that score either.
Then there’s the loss of tens of millions of dollars from Total and Infiniti as sponsors to consider.
Maybe – just maybe – Mateschitz has had enough.
And maybe an FIA registered official team name, ‘RENAULT – Red Bull Racing’, may go some way to dissipate the years of resentment from the French engineering outfit over the lack of publicity and recognition they’ve received for their achievements.