Eifel Grand Prix – Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul says they will step in and supply Red Bull with engines if needed, but don’t expect to be the team’s ‘Plan A’.
Both Red Bull teams are currently without an engine supply deal from 2022 onwards, after the shock announcement from Honda last week that they will exit the sport at the end of next year.
It’s far from an ideal situation for the Red Bull teams, who now have to worry about trying to find a power unit deal that will enable them to compete strongly from the start of the new regulation cycle coming in 2022.
The timeline is too short to allow an external manufacturer, if one was even interested, to jump in and save the day. This means that it’s almost definitely going to be an already present engine manufacturer and the most likely candidate is Renault.
While the relationship between Renault and Red Bull broke down by the end of their most recent partnership in 2018, there have already been signs from both sides that they’re willing to put that sour period of time behind them and look to the future.
Speaking to Austria’s Servus TV on Tuesday, Christian Horner said: “We already have to start thinking about the incorporation of the engine into the 2022 cars. Really, by the end of this year we need that clarity, we need that clarification, so we have to consider all options, all possibilities, and ultimately it will be Mr [Dietrich] Mateschitz’s decision what he wants to do.”
“For us, it is important that we have the right power unit so that we can challenge Mercedes in the future years.”
Horner was a strong critic of Renault during the hybrid era, but had softened considerably when asked about Renault and pointed out that the new leader of Renault, Luca de Meo, has made changes since taking over: “Renault is different now to the Renault we left, with a new chairman, with the few changes he would bring moving forward,”.
Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul has said that they will step in and supply Red Bull if needed, as they are aware of the Sporting Regulation which would force them to do so. With Renault having no customer teams from 2021, the FIA can force them to supply Red Bull if asked to do so, and Abiteboul confirmed they would have no problems following this regulation.
“I can confirm there was absolutely no conversation to this point,” he told Motorsport.com. “Being in the sport we are well aware of the regulation, and we have every intent to comply with the regulation and with our obligations.”
“Obviously it’s a bit more detailed – we need to be requested, and we have not been requested yet, and secondly there are very specific circumstances, including timing, for this to happen. And we are still quite far from that window, which is not before the spring of next year. We know that in F1 lots of things can happen in a very limited amount of time, and spring 2021 is still very far. All sorts of things can happen. As I say we will comply with any obligation which may arise from this circumstance.”
Asked if a reunion with Red Bull would be awkward given their shared history, Abiteboul replied: “I think so, but we need obviously to look at the sport. And I think we are still very far away from having to possibly cross that bridge. I can’t imagine that Red Bull would not have some plan in the background.
“Clearly they must have been aware of this, and Helmut [Marko] and Christian are full of moves and solutions. I don’t expect that we will be their Plan A!”
Indeed, it’s entirely possible that Horner is currently working on that Plan A. The reason he may be in Austria this week is rumoured to be that he is securing funding from Dietrich Mateschitz to go forward with Red Bull as a power unit manufacturer in its own right and buy intellectual property from Honda to get started. The initial cost of all this would be offset in the medium term by the budget cap introduction next season.
Speaking to The Race, Honda’s managing director Masashi Yamamoto confirmed that Honda are amenable to helping Red Bull out with a continuation plan.
“Honda is happy to talk to them if they need us in any way, not only about the power unit but about other things as well.”
“To support AlphaTauri and Red Bull for their programme after 2021 in any way, we’re happy to cooperate.”
“As Honda we had so many things from the teams, so we want to give it back somehow in a nice way for the future.”
Asked specifically about whether Honda would help out with a continuation plan with their intellectual property to allow Red Bull to run rebadged engines from 2022, Yamamoto said: “If that kind of request is made from the team, I am ready to speak to Japan.”
“I personally want to support [what Red Bull and AlphaTauri do] as much as possible.”