It has been the belief for a number of months that Red Bull Racing issued Renault with divorce proceedings whilst having failed to source an engine partner for the F1 2016 season. James Allen suggested the Bulls had “jumped out of the plane with a hope of buying a parachute on the way down.”
Bernie Ecclestone claimed at the 2015 US GP that Red Bull believed it had a deal with Mercedes and then began severing ties with Renault. “In defence of Red Bull, or Christian in particular, the reason they cancelled their agreement with Renault is so they could do the deal they thought they had done with Mercedes.”
Clearly no deal was done.
Niki Lauda claimed he had a meeting in July with Dieter Mateschitz where the matter was discussed, but Mateschitz revealed he had a long standing dislike for Meredes. Lauda said he heard nothing more from the Red Bull boss.
Toto Wolff addressed the matter with Gazzetta dello Sport in August. “If I wear my Mercedes Benz motorsport boss’ hat and think about what is in the best interests of F1, then I have to say it’s (a Red Bull engine supply) an interesting option because it would link us to a brand that has huge appeal among the young and it’s a winning brand. However, speaking as the boss of a rival F1 team, I have to say that it’s not ideal to strengthen one of your main competitors which knows how to make winning racing cars.”
Toto Wolff now reveals, there was another meeting involving himself, Christian Horner and Bernie Ecclestone where specific terms were set out for Red Bull to agree with, before any engine supply could go ahead. As TJ13 revealed at the time, there are global joint ventures underway between Daimler-Benz and Renault, so the first condition for Red Bull was that Renault gave their blessing.
“Unless Renault gave us the go ahead we couldn’t move. It would be in breach of contract, and there is a much bigger picture involving Renault and Mercedes than Formula 1, such as the joint factories in Mexico,” said Wolff.
“The other thing we said is if we supply Red Bull with an engine in Formula 1 there is a possibility of diluting the message around our own success because they could be very successful with our engine”. This was Renault’s complaint during the four triumphant years of WDC’s and WCC’s, so Mercedes sought to protect themselves from a similar fate offering to do joint marketing events where both parties would receive credit.
“That would be fair and square, but in order to accept that we would need to know what kind of marketing activities we could deploy on a worldwide scale with each other. If we were being damaged on the F1 side [beaten on track he means] , how much could we then benefit on the global side? Can we do a car scheme, joint events, joint platforms? Please come up with the person we can talk to” Wolff confirms in the end, “nothing happened.”
So Red Bull didn’t have a deal and the aeroplane analogy goes more like this…
RBR jumped out of the plane, thinking they’d bought a parachute which was strapped to their backs and then discovered on the way down the rucksack was empty.