The Renault F1 V6 turbo power unit philosophy was to build reliability and then add power. This brought them into conflict with their Red Bull masters who insisted on being provided with power units for the season opener in Australia, which Renault said were not properly tested.
Kvyat doesn’t make the start line and Ricciardo trundled around to finish 6th but a lap down.
Then the real war of words began. Newey was called a ‘liar’ by Renault F1’s CEO and Red Bull consistently slagged off their engine supplier in the most public way possible.
The inevitable occurred, Red Bull and Renault agreed to part company.
However, the surprising part of this was that neither Red Bull or Toro Rosso had no agreement for a power unit supply beyond the end of 2015.
Mercedes have said categorically that they will not supply the Red Bull family and have signed Manor F1 for 2016 to ensure their customer team ‘quota’ is complete.
Toto Wolff is matter of fact about the whole thing. “You can’t close your eyes to the fact that this is a platform, and it needs players and it needs a competitive environment,” he said.
“It needs competitive teams, and that was part of our consideration.
“Red Bull is a hip brand and it is good for Formula 1.
“But then it is also an environment when you need to look at yourself and the team’s performance with a priority.
“So when it comes to the decision you can go with the platform of a good sport, or from your team’s perspective.
“From our point of view it is clear you need to prioritise your own competitiveness.”
Despite Ferrari initially saying they were open to supplying Red Bull with a 2016 power unit, it appears they were only prepared to offer the Mateschitz fizzy drinks empire a slightly flat 2015 power unit, unlike Sauber and Haas who are getting the 2016 version.
The Red Bull hierarchy have rejected using anything other than the Ferrari latest power unit specification, which now leaves them in rather a predicament.
In the paddock at the Japanese GP, Christian Horner said the matter was now critical. “We are already late, already very late. It was already difficult two weeks ago, so we’re very, very late”.
When the new V6 turbo engines were introduced, the FIA took steps to ensure the power units were easily transferable across any F1 chassis design – from an engine mounting perspective. So theoretically, Red Bull and Toro Rosso could do a Brawn if necessary.
Honda designed a chassis and engine for 2009, but sold the team to Ross Brawn and withdrew from the sport. Brawn sourced a Mercedes engine last minute and the ensuing world championships are history.
Given the new FIIA design regulations, this should now something Red Bull could do more easily than Brawn – even up to a week before the first winter test.
The problem is, the engine chassis combination in modern F1, requires the two to be designed and developed sympathetically. Red Bull have invested very heavily in a full blown Virtual Test Track housed in building 9 at their Milton Keynes site – ready and raring to go – but no engine to test.
Horner now admits “our engineers already shuffle their feet. They want and need to know what is going to happen with our RB12 car”.
Some 40 staff have already been allowed to leave from the Milton Keynes HQ, and the uncertainty over the future will see a brain drain developing quickly.
“When do I want to have a solution?” Horner asks rhetorically.
“Two weeks ago! Adrian Newey told me: ‘Christian, we need an answer and soon. I know what happens with the front and the rear parts of the car. But we need to know what will happen in between.’
“You have to bear in mind: it’s not only about the engine. We also have to think about cooling and this has an influence on the design of the sidepods, for example, as has the gearbox on the rear design.”
The RB12 is already being compromised and with the log jam of events stalling decisions on many aspects of F1’s immediate future, Red Bull’s plight is indeed becoming desperate.
There has been no formal indication Red Bull and Renault have concluded their divorce legally, but a Ferrari ‘B’ spec power unit appears should this happen to be the best Red Bull can expect for 2016.
Meanwhile, Mario Illien of Ilmoor fame has been working in Red Bull’s building 9 for most of 2015 and has a team of some 50 strong engineers alongside him. Yet it is surely a bridge too far for Mario and Red Bull to develop their F1 V6 turbo hybrid power unit in what would be just about 12 months?
TJ13 has been informed, since Singapore, Red Bull are now seriously considering not dissolving their 2016 engine power supply agreement with Renault.
Were Renault to unilaterally breach their agreement for 2016 with Red Bull the cost would be astronomic. So despite Carlos Ghosn’s grandstanding at the Frankfurt motor show where he claimed, “We said very clearly, it’s finished,” referring to Renault’s position as an F1 engine supplier.
“We already alerted the Formula 1 authorities: ‘Don’t count on us as a provider of an engine. It’s over’. We will honour our contracts, no problem, but the occasion of Renault as a developer and supplier of engines stops”.
However, Ghosn confirmed the dissolution of their current contracts is not finalised: “I think we are today renegotiating the contracts, so it’s too early to say what’s going to be the conclusion of the contract.
“We [Renault] will either exit or run our own team. We don’t have a clear decision yet.”
Red Bull can’t afford to drop out of F1 for a year while they develop their own power unit, the breach of contract with FOM would cost hundreds of millions.
And so their choice is simple. Ferrari ‘B’ engine or have one last baby together with Renault.