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Abiteboul: Red Bull have to deal with 15 May deadline

Renault Sport managing director Cyril Abiteboul is adamant that he wants a decision by Red Bull regarding their engines for next season to be made as per FIA regulations which stipulate that engine manufacturers must reveal, by 15 May, which teams they will supply next year.

Red Bull were big winners in the engine reshuffle of last year, their Toro Rosso team receiving the works Honda engines that were once McLaren bound and the Renault supply to the junior team was redirected to Woking,

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Red Bull have had the luxury of trialling Honda power on Toro Rosso hoping that it can be a race-winning piece of kit at some point. Talks are on right now between the Japanese manufacturer and Red Bull bosses with regards to their future together.

However, a decision is now expected by 15 May and a glance down to the Toro Rosso garage reveals that Honda is catching up but still lagging behind the other three F1 engine manufacturers. Invariably Red Bull would appreciate more time to make a decision, but this will not happen if Renault have their way.

Asked by ESPN about the deadline, Abiteboul insisted, “We have to [stick to it]. We have to for a very simple reason, which is that we need to order parts.”

“The problem is that people tend to amalgamate what happened last year when we changed very late our customers, but we only swapped customers. So actually we decided to allocate, to deviate, engines that were produced for Toro Rosso and to make them available for McLaren, but the parts for those engines were already ordered. I have to order now, the longest lead time items for next year, so what do I do: three or two [teams]?”

“Frankly, I discussed that question with Red Bull on a regular basis. It’s not that we want to be awkward – there are no tactics – but we simply must define the quantity. That’s why it’s in the sporting regulations, and what we discussed with the FIA regarding obligation of supply from suppliers to the customer teams, we agreed on the deadline of May simply because that’s the life of the project. Red Bull will have to cope with it.”

Abiteboul is happy to only supply McLaren next season, “It’s important to have one customer – I would not want to lose our two customers, really not, but that’s also one of the reasons why we’ve done what we have done with McLaren, which is to have a long-term contract with them until 2020.

“We are already in discussions with McLaren with what could happen beyond that point because there is a general feeling that we can achieve great things together. But, frankly, it’s not a problem moving from two customers to one customer.”

Red Bull and Renault were almost synonymous from 2010 to 2013 in which period they won eight F1 world championship titles.

But Renault underestimated the task of building the turbo hybrid power units that came into effect in 2014, while Mercedes caught everyone napping. The French manufacturer has played catch up since then.

As a result, the partnership deteriorated to the point of divorce but with Red Hull’s two teams set to have no engine, the FIA intervened and an unholy alliance has existed since with occasional spats between the two camps making headlines.

Abiteboul admitted, “What we did not manage to do is understand and appreciate the complexity of the 2014 regulations and appreciate together that the model of a customer on one side and a supplier on the other side was completely blown away by the new regulations.”

“That’s why Mercedes and also Ferrari were the two teams to take advantage of that – they are great teams, have great facilities, well-resourced good people but it’s also because they are fully integrated.”

“That level of integration, we didn’t see that coming – neither Red Bull nor Renault. That was our common mistake, that we didn’t manage to support and identify and to react and correct. So we have been a little bit complacent with the model in which we wanted to collectively operate. That was not appropriate, that was not suitable or adapted to those new regulations.”

“I think by keeping us as a supplier and by us keeping them as a customer at arm’s length, it has also undermined the capacity for Viry – our engine base – to be in close contact with the racing.”

“All the discussion that we have about oil combustion and qualifying modes are things that we have never thought of and that is a direct consequence of the way we are working with Red Bull, and a direct consequence also of the fact that we had lost contact by not being a works team, or not being associated with a team that was considering us a complete partner.

“We’ve lost ground by not being in the racing environment. That’s one of the things that we are re-building now that we have a works team,” explained Abiteboul.