Red Bull faces a race against time to find a solution to its power unit dilemma after Honda revealed it is pulling the plug on its Formula 1 operation at the end of 2021.

Honda’s bombshell announcement last week that it would be quitting F1 at the end of next year has left Red Bull and its sister team AlphaTauri seeking a new power unit supplier from 2022 onwards.

Red Bull has seemingly been left with few viable options, with only three manufacturers committed to F1 beyond that timeframe in the shape of Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.

The nature of Red Bull’s split from Renault, which ended on a sour note after limited success throughout the V6 hybrid era, left the two parties in a messy divorce with each exchanging barbed digs at the other.

Rather ironically, Renault is now arguably Red Bull’s best option for a power unit supply given it has the fewest customers. Under F1’s sporting regulations, the French manufacturer would have to supply Red Bull engines if no alternative is found before 2022.

While Renault has indicated that it would be open to reviving its former partnership which led to four successive world championship doubles between 2010 and 2013, team boss Cyril Abiteboul doubted it would be Red Bull’s preferred option.

“I can confirm that I have not been contacted by Red Bull in relation to an engine supply,” Abiteboul said during Friday’s FIA press conference at the Eifel Grand Prix.

“More seriously, I don’t think it is a question of whether we are open or not open. We know the regulation, when you are a participant to the sport you have to accept the rules, it’s part of the sporting regulations, we know what that is. We know the details, in terms of timing, there is still quite a bit of time before we get there.

“I can’t imagine that they don’t have a Plan A or Plan B and I think we are very far in the pecking order of the alphabet before they call us again.”



If Renault was off the table for Red Bull, would either of its chief rivals Mercedes or Ferrari be interested in working with the Milton Keynes outfit as a customer team?

“No - for various reasons,” replied Mercedes F1 team boss when asked that very question.

“The main thing is we are supplying four teams, including us. We are almost in a state that we can’t make PU for all of us so there is no capacity.

“But I have no doubt Helmut [Marko] will have a Plan B, as he said, and probably doesn’t need to rely on any of the PU suppliers.”

Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto was less direct, saying the team has “not considered it” and only would if it was approached directly by Red Bull.

“It is something we need to start considering now,” Binotto explained.

“I think we have not decided. I think first it will be down to Red Bull to eventually look at us and ask us for a supply. They are a great team, no doubt, and I think supplying them would require a lot of energy.

“Timing-wise, there is very little time because we need to organise ourselves for 2022. It was somehow sudden news from Honda and I think now we need to consider something that was not being considered a few days ago.”

What of a Honda continuation project?

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was on the receiving end of many direct questions about the situation facing his side, and stressed he wants a decision to be finalised by the end of the calendar year at the very latest.

Horner said Red Bull is “considering all options” and admitted that taking over Honda’s abandoned F1 engine project could yet be a solution.

Despite its impending departure, the Japanese manufacturer has vowed to help Red Bull and AlphaTauri in any transition period it requires to carry out its succession plan.

Refusing to rule out a Honda continuation project, Horner said: “It’s like all things, you’ve got to consider all possibilities, you’ve got to be open to all possibilities.

“We’ve seen in this sport that sometimes the unexplainable can can happen. And it’s our duty to look at what is the most competitive way forward in 2022.

“We have the time, Honda has afforded us that time. If they’d have made this decision in the spring of next year or in the autumn of next year it would have been a far worse scenario for us.

“We’re only just halfway through the relationship with Honda, and we’ve achieved a lot in the time that we’ve been together.

“We aim to achieve a lot more in the remaining time that we have together. And obviously there’s the bigger questions that need to be answered between now and the end of the year.”

Honda’s F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto hinted that the Japanese company would be open to such a project, which could include selling its Milton Keynes-based facility to Red Bull Advanced Technologies’ headquarters.

Yamamoto said: “It could be that the conversation with Christian is something that we have going forward. But at the moment, nothing is decided.

 

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