Red Bull yesterday announced that they were considering leaving Formula One in its entirety if they did not have competitive engines to race with.
There has been repeated, voiced dissatisfaction from the Red Bull camp regarding the power units they have been provided by constructors Renault. At the time, both Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko repeated similar statements to the effect that there had been no talks, and there was no truth to rumours that Audi had a $300mn order and was waiting for the say-so from Red Bull Racing.
Yesterday’s statement is a complete turnaround from previous statements by various talking heads at the team, however.
Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing’s team principal, has also been vocal in his disapproval of the units availble, following repeated issues at both Red Bull and its sister F1 team, Scuderia Toro Rosso.
At Bahrain, both Toro Rosso drivers – Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr were forced to retire following engine trouble – while Verstappen was quoted as facing ‘electrical issues’, Sainz had problems with pacing.
While Red Bull has fared better in terms of points, currently 4th on the points table, Daniel Ricciardo has had repeated engine issues. He is currently on his 4th, the last one allowed to him as per current F1 regulations. One was retired at the Shanghai Grand Prix, which was said to be a ‘precautionary measure’ between qualifying and race day. Following a practice session at the Australian Grand Prix, Ricciardo lost another engine. It is understood that there is an issue with the Renault V6 ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) which makes them irreparable and necessitates replacement.
Ricciardo’s most dramatic engine issue occured at the Sakhir circuit during the Bahrain Grand Prix, where he held onto 6th spot with smoke billowing from his engine as he crossed the finish line.
Marko, among others in Formula 1, has admitted that Red Bull’s power units were not up to the mark and ‘significantly behind Mercedes’.
At previous discussions of this issue, however, Marko had said there “..haven’t been talks nor are we commencing a winter sale”, quoting the official statement by Red Bull boss Mateschitz.
For his part, Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul said that “... figures have shown that the lap time deficit between Red Bull and Mercedes in Melbourne was equally split between driveability issues, engine performance and chassis performance.” He denied that the blame lay solely on the units provided to Red Bull Racing.
Team principal Horner had previously said that Red Bull’s contract with Renault ran through to 2016, and in an interview with the official Formula 1 website, he said it “...is in Renault’s interest as much as in ours to sort the current issues out as quickly as possible,” leading followers of the team and sport to believe that the Renault-Red Bull relationship would continue.
However, Helmut Marko has said in no uncertain terms that he wishes to end this relationship and begin a new one with Audi – and that he was waiting for responses from the Volkswagen group, which owns the German carmaker.
"If we don't have a competitive engine in the near future, then either Audi is coming or we are out," said Marko.