Even amid ongoing denials, reports suggesting that Red Bull are considering designing their own Formula 1 engine will not go away.
All year – ever since it became clear that 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 their power unit supplier, Renault.
In the past weeks and days, speculation has reached fever pitch. The reports were pushed along in Austria last weekend by Helmut Marko, who appeared to confirm reports Red Bull are thinking about making their own bespoke engine.
“The world champions desperately need what [they] otherwise promise: energy,” Stuttgarter Zeitung reported, 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 do 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 Formula 1 customers are not paying their engine bills on time.
And the latest report is that Lotus, who have struggled even more than Red Bull with the troubled Renault engine, is considering a switch to field-leading Mercedes power for 2015.
“Apparently the only thing missing is a bank guarantee,” claims Sport Bild.
There were whispers in the Red Bull Ring paddock last weekend that Renault’s Formula 1 facility based at Viry-Chattilon, 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 do not want to be an engine manufacturer, but it does want to be “independent” as it tracks further success in Formula 1.
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-Chattilon and therefore takes control of an existing Formula 1 engine supplier’s personnel, decision-making and budget.
One key personnel change could be Mario Illien, the co-founder of Mercedes’ Formula 1 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.” (GMM)