Red Bull planning its own F1 engine? (5th Update)
Team boss Christian Horner is back on the offensive this week, insisting the French marque even had years of warning about its now-struggling turbo V6 project.
"We sat down with Renault to express our concerns about the direction it was going in autumn 2012," he told reporters on Tuesday.
There have been suggestions Red Bull's patience has finally run out, but the lack of alternatives – with F1's only other engine suppliers being arch-rivals Mercedes and Ferrari – is obvious.
"The thing about a team like Red Bull is we always have options, and I'm not going to disclose what they are here," Horner insisted.
Evidently, one of Red Bull's few options is to build its own engine, but the team has played down that likelihood.
But what about simply getting more involved at Renault? There have been rumors the F1 facility at Viry-Chatillon could be sold.
Renault F1 chief Rob White denies it.
"At the moment there is no intention to sell the engine department at Viry. It's still very much a subsidiary of Renault," he told Auto Motor und Sport.
And he said Red Bull taking over Renault would not allow the reigning world champions to simply re-badge the current power unit and dodge the restrictive homologation – or development 'freeze' – that is holding back progress.
"It is not possible to stick another name on the cylinder head and start from scratch. Even Honda can't do exactly as they want," White explained.
Germany's Sport Bild claims that, rather than buying Viry, Red Bull will simply get more involved with Renault's engine project, upping its budget and forcing a restructuring.
To this end, it is believed current Caterham boss Cyril Abiteboul is returning to Renault to lead the revamp.
The focus, it seems, is to follow Mercedes' lead in specifically adapting the engine to a single, works chassis, rather than trying to make it work for every customer.
"You are never going to be able to satisfy everybody," Horner said on Tuesday.
"Renault has tried to keep all of their customers happy, which is an admirable thing to do, but it's not the best way to be competitive."
With that change looming at Renault, it is no surprise the currently Renault-powered Lotus is on the move.
It will mean every 2015 Renault customer has close links to the 'works' team Red Bull — sister team Toro Rosso, and the user of the entire Red Bull rear end, Caterham.
|Would Red Bull buy Renault's F1 engine plant and personnel?|
06/26/14 (GMM) This rumor is upgraded from 'false' to 'speculation' today. Even amid the denials, the story suggesting Red Bull is considering designing its own formula one engine will not go away.
All year – ever since it became clear the reigning world champions would struggle to win the first title of the all-new turbo V6 era – Red Bull has been pointing a steady finger of blame at its 'power unit' supplier, Renault.
In the past weeks and days, the speculation has reached fever pitch.
The rumors were pushed along in Austria last weekend by Dr Helmut Marko, who appeared to confirm reports Red Bull is thinking about making its own bespoke engine.
"The world champions desperately need what it otherwise promises: energy," German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung, referring to the fact Red Bull is an energy drink company, said after the team's poor performance at its home grand prix last weekend.
However, with the 'Red Bull engine' reports soaring, team boss Christian Horner and team owner Dietrich Mateschitz issued clear denials — along the lines that 'Red Bull does not want to become an engine manufacturer'.
But perhaps there is more to it than that.
Renault – also supplying Lotus, Toro Rosso and Caterham – revealed recently that some of its F1 customers are not paying their engine bills on time.
And the latest rumor is that Lotus, who have struggled even more than Red Bull with the troubled Renault engine, is considering a switch to field-leading Mercedes for 2015.
"Apparently the only thing missing is a bank guarantee," said the German magazine Sport Bild.
There were whispers in the Red Bull Ring paddock last weekend that Renault's F1 facility based at Viry-Chatillon, in the southern suburbs of Paris, is for sale.
So rather than 'become an engine manufacturer', perhaps Red Bull is simply a potential buyer.
"We have no desire to be an engine manufacturer," Horner is quoted by Spain's El Confidencial.
"But we do want to work with a strong partner, be competitive and run at the front."
Red Bull, and its second team Toro Rosso, have played an active role – also financially – in solving Renault's deep pre-season crisis this year.
According to Sport Bild, Red Bull does not want to be an engine manufacturer, but it does want to be "independent" as it tracks further success in F1.
Gerhard Berger, famously close to Red Bull and Mateschitz, is quoted as saying: "As a chassis manufacturer, Red Bull gets delivered an engine as it is. Just as an engine manufacturer has to make do when a team builds a bad chassis."
The solution, then, could be simple: Red Bull buys Viry-Chatillon and therefore takes control of an existing F1 engine supplier's personnel, decision-making and budget.
One key personnel change could be Mario Illien, the founder of Mercedes' F1 engine facility in Brixworth, UK.
That could tie in with Red Bull's newly-announced 'Advanced Technologies Centre', to be headed by Adrian Newey.
Marko said: "The contact between Adrian and Mario is still very good."
A good example of the need for Red Bull to think again about its approach to the new 'power unit' era in F1 is McLaren.
The famous British team is struggling this year despite using the field-leading Mercedes engine — as a mere customer.
But next year, works Honda engines will power the McLaren cars.
"Having a works engine allows you to play with much more channels and possibilities than if you have a customer engine," team boss Eric Boullier told reporters this week.
"If you take the example of Mercedes and Red Bull, we all know Red Bull's chassis is very good and maybe slightly better than the Mercedes one, but the big the difference is the Renault engine, which is not a works engine," he said.
|Horner also says no to a Red Bull engine|
06/25/14 (GMM) Christian Horner has added his denial to reports Red Bull could end its F1 engine crisis by building its own turbo V6.
Amid the reigning world champions' obvious frustration with Renault in 2014, the story of a 'Red Bull engine' intensified when Dr Helmut Marko admitted last week that it was a possibility.
But team owner Dietrich Mateschitz this week issued a clear denial.
Boss Horner now follows suit.
"Red Bull is a chassis manufacturer and we have no ambition to become an engine manufacturer," he told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.
However, the rumors are not likely to stop there. Despite Red Bull's 2016 contract, the team is not committing to running French power beyond next year.
And off the back of the very latest reports that Renault could sell its F1 facility at Viry and pull out of the sport, the new rumor is that Lotus could be considering a switch to Mercedes power for 2015.
For his part, Horner said Red Bull is pressing ahead with Renault for now.
"We have had meetings to discuss what needs to happen. At the moment there is a big difference — Mercedes have done a great job," he said.
He said the basic problem is the interaction between Renault's combustion engine and the energy recovery systems.
"It is not working harmoniously," said Horner. "The fact is that it is not easy to recognize any progress.
"They have improved a little, but we need to know what they want to achieve.
"You have to pay Mercedes a big compliment and say they have done a great job. They started early and invested wisely," he added.
|Dietrich Mateschitz says no to a Red Bull engine|
06/24/14 (GMM) This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Dietrich Mateschitz has put a line through rumors Red Bull is commencing a project to build its own F1 engine.
"It's not even worth denying these rumors," the Austrian billionaire told Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper.
Actually, a clear denial might have been necessary, given the fact his deputy Dr Helmut Marko stirred up the speculation in Austria, even naming local companies like Pankl and AVL who could play major roles in the V6 project.
"AVL is not a topic," Mateschitz is quoted by the APA news agency.
"They have a very specific know-how in the area, but to put together a team of experts to design an engine is much more complex," he explained.
"Just because of formula one, we are not becoming a car manufacturer," Mateschitz insisted.
More likely, it seems, is that the 'Red Bull engine' rumor was a way to ramp up the pressure on the team's existing supplier, struggling Renault.
Mateschitz says Red Bull's competitive problem in 2014 is all about the French-made V6.
"Our problems are beyond our control," he said.
"We have won the world championship with Renault for the past four years and so we are loyal to our engine partner. But the situation is serious," he added.
"The engine development must now be given priority."
Gerhard Berger, famously close to Mateschitz and once the co-owner of Red Bull's second team Toro Rosso, agrees that Renault needs to think again about the fundamentals of its F1 foray.
"Renault must look at formula one not with a business model and a strict cost-benefit analysis, but as a tool for its image," he said.
06/23/14 With Red Bull refusing to rule out the prospect of building their own engine for the 2016 season, speculation is inevitably mounting in the paddock about who might become involved in such a project.
Speaking on Friday's edition of The F1 Show, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko confirmed that the World Champions are considering alternatives to Renault after the French manufacturer's sluggish start to the sport's new hybrid era.
The Red Bull-Renault-Sebastian Vettel partnership might have achieved a clean-sweep of drivers' and constructors' titles in the past four years, yet both Marko and Team Principal Christian Horner have become increasingly outspoken the more Mercedes have flexed their muscles in 2014.
With Red Bull committed to Renault until the end of next season, Marko suggested to Sky F1's Martin Brundle that partnership's future could even be decided after this weekend's Austrian GP.
Mercedes might have the power unit of choice at present but becoming a mere customer team appears too great a step backwards for Red Bull, whose splurge of success has led to the establishment of a preferential partnership with Renault over and above anything the other outfits supplied by the French manufacturer have enjoyed.
As such, Red Bull had a measure of influence in the design of Renault's V6 turbo. Yet the synergy between the pair pales in comparison with that enjoyed by Mercedes' F1 team and its engine department.
Perhaps it's that sort of closeness that Red Bull are looking to achieve; their announcement at the Canadian GP two weeks ago that Adrian Newey would stay on, and yet step back from F1 to oversee new Red Bull Technology projects, certainly suggests as much.
But Newey's background is, of course, rooted in aerodynamics and, as such, it begs the question of just who might bring the required expertise to such a project.
A perfect fit for Red Bull seemingly lays a little further up the M1 from their Milton Keynes base. Step forward Mario Illien, co-founder of Ilmor Engineering, the company that evolved into Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines.
Although Illien sold out to the German manufacturer in 2005, he subsequently re-established Ilmor Engineering at the company's original premises in Brixworth – Mercedes subsequently relocated to grander premises nearby.
Furthermore, it is understood that Illien already has plans for a V6 turbo. That Mercedes are currently picking fruits grown from seeds first sown in the summer of 2011 suggests that if Red Bull are indeed to follow suit in time for 2016, then the advantages of backing an existing project would be self-evident.
Ahead of their home race, Marko also spoke of Austrian companies that could become involved should Red Bull press ahead. AVL – whose 'rolling road' was used by Toro Rosso in a pre-season test that attracted attention recently – were mentioned specifically while turbo manufacturer Pankl are also well-known.
But if Red Bull are to spread their wings and join Ferrari and Mercedes as a true 'works' outfit, then might they make the shorter flight to Northamptonshire? Sky Sports
06/20/14 (GMM) Plans are afoot for an 'Infiniti ‘engine in formula one.
It is already known that reigning world champions Red Bull will compile a 'final report' about current supplier Renault's progress since its disastrous pre-season after this weekend's Austrian grand prix.
"Then we will decide if there is still potential development in the existing engine, or whether we need to consider a new development in order to reach Mercedes' standard," team owner Dietrich Mateschitz said this week.
Renault, whose other F1 customers are Toro Rosso, Lotus and Caterham, have reason to be worried.
"We know that Red Bull makes high demands of us," said the French marque's engine boss Rob White, "but I am sure that we can meet them."
Switching to the V6s produced by rivals Mercedes or Ferrari can be ruled out, Honda is not ready to consider servicing customers, and Red Bull's links to Volkswagen are considered wide of the mark.
Another rumor is that the team could build a bespoke 'Red Bull' turbo engine.
"Nothing is impossible," Dr Helmut Marko coyly told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
Correspondent Michael Schmidt even has some details of the potential plan.
He said Red Bull already plays a major role in the production of the power unit batteries. And the 'Renault' turbocharger is actually derived from APC Pankl, an Austrian technology collaboration.
The internal combustion engine and motors would be built at AVL, an Austrian company located not far from the scene of this weekend's Austrian grand prix at the Red Bull Ring.
AVL, the world's largest independent powertrain development company, hit the headlines recently when reports of a secret 'rolling road' pre-season test with a Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso took place at its impressive Graz facility.
Schmidt continued: "Infiniti would contribute a portion of the budget and may contribute knowledge about electric motors from the parent company Nissan.
"It is planned that the engine will also be called Infiniti."