Red Bull mull engine options but Mercedes rule out deal

Christian Horner and his leading team boss counterparts on what might happen next after Honda announced their F1 exit at the end of 2021

By James Galloway and Matt Morlidge

Last Updated: 09/10/20 2:47pm

Red Bull boss Christian Horner says they will consider all their options to source the “competitive” engine they believe is paramount for the team from 2022 in the wake of Honda’s F1 withdrawal plans.

But Mercedes have again already ruled out the prospect of supplying their rivals ahead of adding McLaren to their existing stable of three teams next season.

“No, for many reasons,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff when asked by Sky Sports F1 if they would consider supplying the Red Bull teams.

“But the most important one is that we simply have no capacity, We decided to get McLaren on board last year (for 2021) which is a relationship we’ve had since a long time, a great brand and good people, and we are absolutely on the max of our capacity.

“Even getting McLaren on board was already a stretch.”

Christian Horner says Red Bull must find a new engine for 2022 with Honda set to stop their Formula 1 project at the end of 2021.

Honda’s decision to quit F1 at the end of next season has left Red Bull back on familiar ground looking for an engine supply that they believe will help them challenge for race wins and world titles into the future.

“We have to look at all the options. We have a bit of time to consider all of the options,” Horner told Sky F1 at the Eifel GP.

“One thing’s for sure, we need a competitive engine. A team like Red Bull, the situation we’ve been in the past, we need to be in a competitive position and we need a competitive power unit.

“But, of course, cost is a key factor in that, regulations are a key factor in that, and we have to explore all the options in terms of the availability of supply, who would be prepared to supply and obviously under what conditions.

“It’s not a normal customer-supplying transaction, supplying a team like Red Bull.”

Franz Tost was shocked by Honda’s decision to withdraw from Formula 1 at the end the 2021.

With the expectation that no new manufacturer will enter F1 before the next change of engine regulations currently scheduled for 2026, Red Bull’s potential options post-Honda are as clear as they are limited.

With Mercedes seemingly already off the table, Red Bull’s options therefore consist of agreeing a supply deal with one of F1’s other manufacturers – Renault and Ferrari – or taking over the right to run Honda’s engines themselves and rebadging the units into 2022.

Would Renault supply Red Bull again?

Renault, on paper, are Red Bull’s best option post-2021, given their big straight-line speed improvement this year and the fact they will only be powering their factory outfit next season with McLaren heading to Mercedes.

However, while Red Bull and Renault partnered for four consecutive F1 title doubles from 2010 to 2013, they split on acrimonious terms at the end of 2018 and a reunion may not be favoured by either outfit.

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul confirmed that while Renault would “comply with obligations” – being that if a team does not have an engine supply, the FIA can make it compulsory for the manufacturer with the lowest number of customers to step in – he believes Red Bull, who have until next May to find a provider, will have “different options”.

“What I can say is that on principle we have to be prepared to comply with obligations,” said Abiteboul. “We are in the sport, we know what the sporting regulations are saying, we could be called upon having to do so.

“But we also know that it says it will not be for a while, it will not be before mid-May of 2021 that it would be the case, and by then I’m sure that we may have a very different perspective of things.

“I’m expecting from Red Bull that they will have different options. I don’t know what they are, frankly. I’m very focused on what I need to do for our team and that’s really a job that is big enough, so I leave with Christian and Helmut to deal with their own strategy.”

And what about Ferrari?

Ferrari and Red Bull have history together, with the Scuderia powering what was then a new F1 team back in 2006, and the Red Bull-branded Toro Rosso as recently as 2013.

However, Ferrari, who supply Alfa Romeo and Haas as well as their works team, currently have the least competitive engine on the grid.

“It’s something which we’re not considering at all, because obviously we could not foresee such a decision,” admitted team principal Mattia Binotto about the prospect of supplying Red Bull. “It’s something which we need to think about, but we haven’t yet.

“I think we need to make our own considerations, as Red Bull need to do too. Let’s see what’s happening in the next weeks.”

Is a re-badged Honda engine a possibility?

By acknowledging they will be assessing “all the options” for 2022, Red Bull have not denied that running Honda’s engine in re-badged form is among the considerations.

The Milton Keynes outfit has previously explored but ruled out producing its own F1 engine outright, insisting it is a chassis builder and not a power unit maker.

But taking on Honda’s F1 hybrid units at the end of next year as part of a deal with the exiting Japanese manufacturer could represent something of a ‘halfway house’ solution for the team if they managed to source additional support to run the units at races from 2022.

After torrid initial experiences on their return to F1 with McLaren in 2015, Honda have got on top of the sport’s V6 hybrid power units and are the only manufacturer other than Mercedes to win races so far this season. They have also confirmed they will introduce a new engine for Red Bull next season before leaving the sport.