Red Bull’s surprise F1 power unit option for 2016

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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.

The result?

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.

 

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21 responses to “Red Bull’s surprise F1 power unit option for 2016

  1. I do wonder if Red Bull have shot themselves in the foot. I also wonder if Renault have been sandbagging with their engine development, knowing they are going to be running a works team next year. In the races since Austria, barring accidents, the Renault powered cars have been finishing in the top 12, even finishing in 2nd, 3rd and 4th places in Hungary. If Torro Rosso keep the Renault engine next year they may well be fighting with, and beating, their Red Bull sister team.

    • Always proof read!! It should say…
      “I do wonder if Red Bull have shot themselves in the foot, or if they have developed their own engine on the quiet.”

  2. Wasn’t there talk that Renault would be breaching the agreement just by buying Lotus as Red Bull have premier team status written in to their contract?

    That said, I’m sure the nonsense RB have been spouting is enough for Renault to claim breach and I’d hope Red Bull would be sensible enough to see that if they only have one option left then anything which ruins that option will finish them…

    Question is, would both teams run Renault or would it go back to one Renault and one Ferrari? After all, Ferrari still have one slot free and it might be beneficial to Mario to get access to two lots of data…

    • One would think all of this has been considered, then again this is F1 and there are other Monisha Kaltenborns.

  3. “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.”…..

    I must be mistaken, but was it not Red Bull who served notice to Renault that they wish to dissolve their partnership. So why would Renault be in breach of said contract?

    • I think both know there are significant consequences, so each is waiting for the other to swerve in their game of chicken. Both want to sever ties, but neither one wants to be the cause of said severance.

  4. It is all very interesting, Red Bull says it’s ending the contract with Renault and Renault says it wont produce engines for anyone else. So really the question is who actually served the paperwork first, if either?
    One thing to consider is how many different homologated engines is an engine supplier allowed in 2016? Did the year old engine supply rule get passed? If not, baring software and fuel, the power unit should be the same as the works team.
    My guess is Red Bull jumped the gun and have shot themselves in the foot. I believe if they stay in F1 and I believe they will, they will be running 2016 customer Ferrari engines with a 2 year deal. That gives Red Bull 2-3 years (including this year) to develop an engine that can be badged as VW/Audi/Porsche. That way Red Bull are 100% in control of their entire car. Then again that does give them no one to blame should they not win 🙂

  5. My schadenfreude, normally unbounded, is bounded in this case. Clearly, Renault didn’t get their PU right, but RB’s continual bitching and groaning and whining and slagging Renault shows them to be low-to-no-class people. Still, it’s the drivers, mechanics, and the boffins in the back I have sympathy for.

  6. I get the feeling that after all the stick Renault got from Red Bull, they just went…..

    “Fcuk it, we’re not doing sh!t more to develop our power unit”…..

    • It’s totally that. Carlos Ghosn’s rhetoric was pretty much that for 4 years Renault did a great job but got absolutely zero credit for it while in the last 2 years they got ripped to shreds from all corners and most importantly by their own partners. This was, for all intents and purposes, a raised middle finger pointed at Dietrich to say “Screw you”. Red Bull don’t value team-work and are now paying for it, if they can’t learn how to take the rough with the smooth then they are most welcome to leave and won’t be missed.

      • Completely agree KimKas. As I’ve said for some time now, Red Bull does this in every sport in which it participates and has a long history of failing to credit partners and athletes but slagging them off as soon as profits and, or performance, levels off. Oh well – just desserts.

        • Maybe it’s me, but I haven’t heard a single wrong note from Red Bull in regards to their long standing relationship with KTM in the MX.

    • I would assume Renault have been developing the Power Unit, but probably not bringing updates to track as quickly as they would have otherwise done. The biggest middle finger Renault can give to Red Bull is simple really – eventually win the drivers and constructors titles with it’s own works team in x years from now. While Red Bull will either leave the sport in a huff or struggle to get a power unit to work (unless Dietrich reaches into his vast pockets and poaches Mercedes engineers).

      My view about Red Bull ? They’d be better off as the commercial rights owner and promoter of F1, all the glory none of the sporting pain. If they don’t have any power units for 2016, then I guess all that hot air produced by Horner and Marko could be used to drive a turbine fan at the back of the Red Bulls….

  7. Red bull have 50+ people working on the ICE ? Combine this with the hundreds of energy recovery system programming staff already employees at red bull technologies and you have a work force to rival Ferrari and merc.

    I’d say the public lashing dispensed upon No-Token Renault this year was for purposes of breaking contract without paying and avoiding IP lawsuits.

    If red bull come out of the gate with a dominate power unit there is no way anyone would accuse them of copying that pile of crap No-Token Renault claims is an f1 power unit.

    If red bull had been nice this year we’d be easily persuaded that maybe they used Renaults IP.

    But now nobody in their right mind would accuse red bull of copying.

  8. “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.””

    Toto Wolff wants players for the platform and a competitive environment but he’s willing to sacrifice the sport in order to maintain Mercedes advantage. Basically he wants his cake and to eat it too. He wants Red Bull out of the way/the sport so that their domination can continue and thus, weakening the on-track product.

    Mercedes utter domination will continue to weaken the value of the sport for it’s current and potential sponsors. I think that the current global economic crisis will cause sponsors (both current and potential) to think twice about spending their sponsorship money in Formula 1 if the on-track competition doesn’t improve. I hope that Ferrari’s power unit can make some huge strides over the off season and really take the fight to Mercedes next year. 2017 can’t come soon enough for me.

    • “Toto Wolff wants players for the platform and a competitive environment but he’s willing to sacrifice the sport in order to maintain Mercedes advantage. Basically he wants his cake and to eat it”…..

      I didn’t know it was Mercedes’ responsibility to save F1? I thought they were mere competitors?

      Why aren’t you lashing out at Ferrari? After all they came to Red Bulls rescue by offering them 2015 power units, which Red Bull has rejected? Why aren’t you in uproar and demanding that Ferrari should offer the same as what Kimi and Seb will be using?

      I guess they too aren’t interested in even competition.

      People said a continued Red Bull dominate would also devalue the sport, but that’s changed and now it’s Mercedes. I think you’ll also find that as long as Mercedes continues to win, their sponsors would have no problem continuing with them.

      • I never said it was their responsibility to save Formula 1. Mercedes and Ferrari want Red Bull out of Formula 1 because it would mean more podiums and money for them.

        Ferrari have offered a b spec power unit to Red Bull/Toro Rosso because they have said that Red Bull having a “works”spec power unit like what’s in Seb and Kimi’s cars scares them. They’re afraid of the competition and afraid that they would get beaten by the Red Bull’s if they had a “works” power unit in them.

        I bet that Red Bull would get a “works” spec power unit if they gave a race seat to a Ferrari development driver. Manor Marussia are getting a “works” spec Mercedes power unit because Pascal W. will very likely get a full or half time race seat with the them next year.

        Formula 1 was in better footing financially and grid wise during the Red Bull domination years than it is now. It could afford to withstand those years because sponsors were careful but not as careful as they are now with the sponsorship money.

        The sport also had closer racing, Fernando challenging Sebastian, the FIA banning things that helped Red Bull in an attempt to get tighter races, etc. There is verbiage in Mercedes contract with Bernie that they get more money if they win 2 championships and a handful of races. Basically, the way the contract is written, Bernie decided the 2 championships (last year and this year’s) when he signed the contract with Mercedes.

        Now, you could have given the constructor’s and driver’s championships to Mercedes early in the season because their continued domination was so apparent. They probably have been sandbagging to try and make the races close.

        We may see a non Mercedes driver on the top step in Sochi if Mercedes have tire issues.

        • Red Bull want Red Bull out of F1, not Mercedes or Ferrari. No one told them to go and publicly blast their engine supplier in public and then expect someone to run to their rescue now that they’ve by got a back up plan.

          If the roles were reversed, Red Bull would do the same thing, all you have to do is look at 2009. McLaren sanctioned Brawn being supplied with works engines and look what happened

  9. I wouldn’t be surprised if Red Bull and Toro Rosso will have different engine suppliers next year. Probably the Ferrari old spec in the Toro Rosso and an ugraded Renault in the Red Bull? Surely they have arranged something for 2017, and need to survive 2016.

    • I think it’s over between Red Bull/Toro Rosso and Renault. I think that Red Bull/Toro Rosso will have Ferrari B spec power units. I don’t think that VAG are going to commit to building a Formula 1 power unit even with the 2017 formulae given the current issues that they face re: fines, etc. over the emissions scandal.

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