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Formula 1

Red Bull’s implicit quit threat over ‘only’ engine option

by Matt Beer
3 min read

Christian Horner has attached an implicit quit threat to Red Bull’s call for an engine development freeze in 2022 – the “only” way to make Red Bull’s “only” option work.

Red Bull will lose engine partner Honda at the end of the 2021 season but its priority is to agree on a deal to take over the running of the Honda engines so the two teams Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri do not have to strike customer deals instead.

However, while Red Bull says it can continue to maintain the Honda engines, it cannot develop them. It wants the burden reduced by bringing forward F1’s planned engine freeze from 2023 to 2022.

As reported by The Race, the matter will be discussed further in a meeting on Monday after the Portuguese Grand Prix, with Mercedes publicly in support of Red Bull’s proposal, Renault understood to have doubts depending on performance convergence by the end of next year and Ferrari being set against it.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has confirmed that “under the right circumstances” his company could “have an appetite” to run its own engines.

But he has issued a clear warning that Red Bull will not do that without the freeze, and said that Red Bull is not considering an alternative because it would be “inconvenient”.

“It would be absolutely contingent upon the necessity to spend being dramatically reduced on the power units because it’s just astronomical numbers,” said Horner of Red Bull’s engine continuation plan.

“So it would be absolutely dependent upon a freeze of this current engine probably from the end of the 2021 season, until the introduction of the new engine.

“If they want to bring that new engine forward, then fine, but I think under the current regs with the challenges that we face, and Formula 1 faces, the only way for us to contemplate taking on that challenge would have to be under those circumstances.”

AlphaTauri Red Bull F1 2020

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has previously referenced the possibility of withdrawing the two F1 teams without a preferable engine deal in German media.

But this is the first time Horner has spoken in such terms about Red Bull’s engine future having previously only gone as far as hinting that continuing with the Honda engine is a potential option.

When Horner spoke to Sky Sports F1 on Saturday at the Portuguese Grand Prix about striking a deal with Honda to take on its intellectual property, he said it was “really the only option that works”.

“At the moment all focus is on plan A,” he said. “Toto has made Mercedes’ case very clear. Obviously, Ferrari has got their own issues that they’re dealing with.

“It’s a big wake up call for Formula 1 to have a major manufacturer like Honda walk away” :: Christian Horner

“Renault doesn’t really want to supply us. Their aspirations as a team obviously have changed. It’s inconvenient to supply a team like Red Bull.

“We’re not a standard customer team, we’re not a small team.”

Horner reiterated that an engine freeze, which would allow Red Bull to compete with a heavily updated 2021 Honda engine for many years without worrying about rivals developing further in 2022, was “absolutely fundamental”.

But that demand will likely depend on convincing Ferrari to sacrifice a year of engine development in 2022 just so Red Bull can have its preferred choice of engine while reducing the necessary investment.

The FIA’s regulations require Renault to supply Red Bull and AlphaTauri in 2022 if an alternative engine supply is not arranged by next summer.

Max Verstappen Red Bull F1 2020

However, Horner – who has Mercedes boss Toto Wolff’s support on this – believes it is in F1’s interest to keep the Honda engine around.

“It’s down to the FIA,” Horner said. “It’s a big wake up call for Formula 1 to have a major manufacturer like Honda walk away from the sport at the end of 2021.

“That leaves only three engine suppliers, that’s a very precarious place for the sport to be.

“That’s why the governing body really needs to take control of this.

“The FIA, Liberty, the commercial rights holder; they need to step up and do their bit.

“I think losing an engine manufacturer is not a good thing. It would be criminal to see those engines just on a shelf somewhere in a Japanese warehouse.”

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