TJ13 has been at the forefront of reporting the Red Bull Racing battle to gain ‘new manufacturer’ status for the new era of F1 power units arriving in 2026.
Having failed on two previous occasions to attract new manufacturers to the sport, the FIA made concessions for those who’ve never built an F1 engine to soften the barriers to entry.
Red Bull forced to build their own PU
After all Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Honda have decades of Formula One experience, tens of thousands of laps worth of data and a host of other knowledge a new manufacturer cannot have.
So when Honda announced they were withdrawing from the sport in 2021, Red Bull Racing were once again left in the lurch as when the relationship with their previous power unit supplier Renault hit the rocks.
Mercedes and Ferrari have previously indicated they would not supply Red Bull because they are considered a direct competitor so the Milton Keynes based squad would be without a power unit between 2022-2026 until they could build their own and enter it as Red Bull Power Trains for the new F1 engine era.
‘New manufacturer’ status gets additional benefits
The interim period would be covered by an FIA mandated power unit freeze to allow Red Bull Racing to continue to run their existing Honda engine and pay the Japanese firm to produce them.
Christian Horner has insisted all along that Honda own the Intellectual Property to the power unit and that Red Bull have never benefitted from Honda’s knowledge of powertrains other than as do all other customer teams.
The ‘new manufacturer’ status is important because it will afford incremental benefits including funds and bonus development time that existing manufacturers will not receive.
Ferrari refused to sign up to 2026 regs
TJ13 reported in December that Ferrari had been excluded from the 2026 engine advisory committee meeting because they had refused to sign up for the new regulations in protest over Red Bull being awarded ‘new manufacturer’ status.
Now Italian publication La Gazzetta is suggesting having “asserted the political weight of the Prancing Horse,” Ferrari has won the day.
Yet a closer examination of the text suggests the fight is not yet over.
The arguments presented are that a collaboration with Mercedes and Audi will see Ferrari win the day, but no decision has yet been made.
Red Bull makes its case as an independent
As TJ13 observed, Christian Horner was making a big deal at the launch of the RB19 of the “Chinese walls” between Red Bull Power Trains (RBPT) and Honda and confirmed unnecessarily that Honda owned the intellectual property of the current power unit.
The Italian report suggests RBPT are already working closely with Honda something Horner strenuously denied 6 days ago.
Much is made in the Italian article of “high-profile signings” such as former Mercedes head of mechanical engineering Ben Hodgkinson as well as five other engineers from the Silver Arrows’ Brixworth factory.
Audi and RBPT have big knowledge gaps
Yet this is no reason to ban Red Bull from receiving the new manufacturer status as Audi will indubitably be hunting for personnel with current F1 power unit design and build skills.
Further, its argued that the new deal with Ford is merely a branding exercise and had Ford chosen to actually supply the power unit, the extra benefits would have been allowable.
Clearly there is no detail in the private or public domain of the RBPT-Ford collaboration and what is the required level of input for the unit considered to be from Ford or RBPT?
Italian media well known for propaganda
La Gazzetta is well known as a channel for Ferrari propaganda. Together with La Stampa these publications were historically used by the Ferrari Group to send messages to and pressure Ferrari F1 bosses.
Today’s much quoted article must be seen in this light and a careful examination of the text clearly places this report in the speculative arena. Further, it is designed to introduce into the media discourse the debate Ferrari may feel it is not winning.
Of course RBPT and Audi are not equally as ignorant in terms of their knowledge of F1 power units, but Audi will gain knowledge from the experience of their partners at Sauber.
Undertaking to build one of these highly complex modern engines is a huge risk for an organisation with no history of this kind of production.
No decision announced by the FIA
As Christian Horner said at the RB19 launch, “We’ve got 150 weeks left before we have an engine driving out of a pit lane for the first time in the back of a Red Bull car.”
“So that focuses the mind, it’s a big challenge. It’s a ballsy undertaking, to think that an independent team can take on those type of manufacturers.”
The decision on the ‘new manufacturer’ status is the FIA’s to make and not Ferrari’s and nobody believes Ferrari’s inherent threat in their refusal to join the 2026 engine advisory committee.
Given there has been no FIA announcement since Honer’s latest pitch 6 days ago, we have to assume for now that Red Bull Racing is still fighting on for the extra benefits the probably deserve over Ferrari and Mercedes.
— Ted Kravitz (@tedkravitz) February 10, 2023