Well its the day after the day before – TJ13 captured the eyes of many in Formula One yesterday with our revelation that Red Bull Racing will be building their own Formula One engines in partnership with Mario Illien of Ilmor. This story has since spawned a number of articles on the matter, two are worthy of particular note.
Here’s an excellent article from Matt Somerfield of SomersF1, describing in detail some of the recent work Mario Illien has been involved in along with his recent connections to the Renault F1 power unit programme: A Red Bull powered Red Bull
Mark Hughes of MotorSport Magazine also weighed in with a piece well worth reading, charting some of Mario Illein’s F1 history and previous involvement with Adrian Newey: The Story behind Red Bull’s 2016 engine
Michael Schmidt of AMuS wrote a rebuttal titled, “No engine development at Red Bull”. However, Schmidt’s article has no outright denial that Red Bull will be using their own power unit next year, he merely criticises the detail of one or two of TJ13 assertions.
The notion that Red Bull Racing could run an ‘unbranded’ power unit in 2016 was not something TJ13 revealed yesterday. Andrew Benson of the BBC speculated as much during the weekend of the Austin GP. But what is an unbranded F1 engine?
Having had limited success in the 1960’s, Porsche withdrew from Formula One but were persuaded by McLaren’s John Barnard to develop an engine which debuted in 1983. Porsche were however nervous about putting their name to an F1 engine, in case it was a failure, so TAG funded the project and retained the naming rights to the engine. Whilst not an ‘unbranded’ engine, this idea is not too dissimilar to Andrew Benson’s proposal that Red Bull will run an engine with no name in 2016 – that engine being a Renault F1 power unit.
We now run into terminology difficulties, because the modern V6 Turbo hybrid F1 engines are no longer really engines. They are in fact power units comprising of ICE (internal combustion engine), Turbo, Control Electronics, Energy Store, MGU-K and MGU-H components. So what was the reality behind the ‘unbranded’ F1 power unit that Red Bull will be running?
Red Bull have previously demonstrated their expertise in KERS technology, as they provided the units which were bolted onto the Renault V8. Further, they developed the original energy store (ES), which was fitted to the Renault power unit inside the RB10. So it’s not out of the question that RBR have built on their previous experience in hybrid know how and invested in the R&D to deliver an MGU-H and Control Electronics unit. This is after all the organisation that crashed tested a new nose design more than 60 times to get it right.
This then leaves the internal combustion engine (ICE), often still referred to as ‘the engine’. TJ13 has been informed that Red Bull Racing will use the lower part of the Renault V6 engine and fit on top a Mario Illien head. This Illien design is already believed to deliver an incremental 40BHP more than the upgraded Renault power unit set to debut in at least one RBR car in Brazil.
So when we consider the proposed RBR 2016 ‘unbranded’ power unit, the question is – how much of it is a Renault?
Answer: Not very much
However, for descriptive purposes it is the lower part of the ICE, or the block, is for now the component that remains as Renault’s contribution. The Renault engine block will form the core of the RBR PU. Additional components developed by RBR include a new cylinder head, turbo, CE, MGU-K and MGU-H units all of which will then require ‘harmonisation.’
This is why Milton Keynes developed ‘building 9’, dug down into the ground two stories and installed a multi million pound AVL rig – a virtual test track used by auto manufacturers to test their engines in situ. A chassis manufacturer does make this kind of mega investment unless they have intentions on a much larger scale. This story was also reported exclusively by TJ13 some months ago.
The AMuS article claiming there is no Red Bull engine programme had just one quote from someone involved in the building 9 RBR developments. This was from Mario Illien himself who said: “I know nothing of a dispute I also have no idea what upgrades Renault has incorporated in its modified engine Also, I can not imagine that a large company like Renault would risk secretly installing [in their engine] my developments.” This is in response to the fact that TJ13 reported there had been some wrangling between Renault and Red Bull over intellectual property.
Clearly, if Red Bull Racing are going to take part of the 2015 Renault power unit and then develop their own PU going forward, serious conversations over intellectual property have most definitely been had.
At times the speed of a denial and the specific aspects of the denial tells a tale in itself. One could surmise from Schmidt’s AMuS response, which is over 95% Schmidt comment and less than 5% quoted sources, that he is peeved at not being the one to reveal the details of Red Bull’s 2016 PU plans.
Further, the TJ13 comments about Intellectual Property clearly raised some concerns in certain quarters, soliciting a remarkably quick response from Illien.
The bottom line is Red Bull are in effect about to become an F1 engine manufacturer, despite having denied this time and time again. It will be fascinating to see how the FIA treat the RBR power unit. Will they get ‘new manufacturer’ allowances as did Honda, or will Red Bull be deemed to be developing out an existing F1 engine which has previously been homologated by the FIA.