Prancing Horse, Raging Bull: Ferrari-Red Bull partnership in the offing?
Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso, using Renault engines, have faced serious engine problems all season, with several retirements among both teams in the 8 races so far.
Bosses at Red Bull have been vocal in their displeasure against the power units: earlier this year, they threatened to withdraw support from the manufacturer. Although driver Daniel Ricciardo had points at the Bahrain Grand Prix, he ended the race with his engine engulfed in smoke. Ricciardo has now been through five Internal Combustion Engines or ICEs – one over the permitted Formula One limit. As a result, the Australian raced the Austrian Grand Prix with penalties, as did his teammate Daniil Kvyat.
Both Toro Rosso drivers have had several engine failures and retirements, although 17-year-old Max Verstappen, the youngest driver on the grid, has shown immense potential. Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of Red Bull, said in April that the team would “only stay in Formula 1 if we have a competitive team, and we need a competitive power unit for that.”
Ricciardo, who started 9th at the Canadian Grand Prix but had a dismal 13th place finish, complained of a ‘strange’ racing experience: “we just couldn't get any pace out of the car,” he said in an interview following the race at Montreal.
Prior to this, bosses had announced following the Grand Prix at Bahrain that they would ‘quit Formula one’ in its entirety in the absence of competitive racing engines. At the time, rumours swirled that the team were to join forces with famed German automakers Audi, but these rumours had been denied by Red Bull Motorsport boss Helmut Marko and owner Mateschitz.
At the time, Marko had said there “..haven’t been talks nor are we commencing a winter sale”, quoting the official statement by Red Bull boss Mateschitz.
All official statements echoed the same sentiment – that although the team were doubtless unhappy with the power units, they would honour the contract, which runs through to 2016.
Kvyat and teammate Ricciardo started the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in 8th and 14th place respectively, but each received a ten-place grid penalty for using more ICEs than they were allowed. Neither finished the race strongly – Ricciardo finished in 10th with a single point, and Kvyat in 12th with none.
Although Red Bull are currently 4th in the constructors’ championships, at 55 they are a staggering 74 points behind nearest competitor Williams, who have 129.
Ferrari Formula One chairman Sergio Marchionne has now expressed interest in supplying engines to Red Bull Racing.
"I have a lot of respect for Red Bull. I think they've done a lot for the sport, they've had the world championship for a number of years," Marchionne, whose Ferrari team currently supplies Sauber and Manor F1 teams with engines, was quoted as saying by autosport.com on Sunday. "I think they will find their way again and if we can help them get there, we'd be more than glad to do it. It's in our DNA, we've done it before. I think we can provide engines to any of the teams that want to race."
He added he had no concerns about supplying a strong rival with an equal engine.
"As long as we keep control over the aerodynamic work on the car, I think there's going to be enough distinguishing traits between us and the competition," Marchionne said."We are more than glad to try and provide a level playing field now that the engine is there."
However, Ferrari principal Maurizio Arrivabene only yesterday openly criticized the team for wanting to end the Renault partnership.
Although Red Bull Racing are said to be ‘wary’ of using Ferrari engines, it remains to be seen what transpires if a formal offer is made between the two Formula One giants.