It has been announced this afternoon that the Red Bull team has again threatened to quit F1 if it is not able to secure a competitive engine in the near future.
By its own high standards, Red Bull has had a disastrous start to the season and has firmly pinned the blame on the performance of its Renault power units. The Spanish Grand Prix was the first of the year at which a Renault power unit did not expire, but the performance of the Red Bulls and Toro Rossos was visibly lacking on the straights due to their power deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari.
In an interview with the BBC today, Red Bull’s advisor Dr Helmut Marko has issued a public warning to Renault that the team will look to Audi to supply engines if the situation does not improve, although admits no “official” talks with the VW Group, which owns Audi, have taken place. Marko stated the following:-
‘If we don’t have a competitive engine in the near future, then either Audi is coming or we are out. There are so many rumours. Officially there was no request or talks.
‘The VW Group first has to sort out who will be the new chief of support, who will run the brand of VW, and when they have sorted all these things maybe then they can think about what they are doing in motorsport.’
There has been alot of talk and speculation regarding the VW Group entering a brand into F1 has intensified since Ferdinand Piech resigned as its chairman last month after losing a power struggle with chief executive Martin Winterkorn. Piech has long been viewed as the reason the company’s brands have not entered F1, with Audi and Porsche focusing their efforts on the World Endurance Championship while VW competes in rallying.
However, it remains to be seen if the change at the top will see the company embark on an expensive foray into F1 with few guarantees of success against the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes.
When asked directly if Red Bull is planning to pull out of F1, Red Bull’s Team Principal Christian Horner in his own interview with the media added the following:-
‘We want to try and sort the issues out. It is not enjoyable being in a GP today when you are just going round. The determination is to get back. The problem and frustration we have is not all of it is in our hands. We are relying on our partner and all we can do is support them as best we can to make the necessary steps.’
I will firstly address the issues between Renault and Red Bull first and then move onto Audi. So firstly, like many fans of the sport, I feel that this is a public battle of words between Red Bull and Renault that appears to be carrying on like a couple of bickering kids in a schoolyard and getting progressively worse as the days go on and that they need to resolve the issues between them as quickly as possible before the situation gets completely out of hand.
I can understand why Red Bull feel the way that they do especially after all the promises that Renault made to them during the course of the 2014 season that appear to have not been met and both parties appear to be slipping backwards rather than forwards. Let me first say that as a racing team, your sole aim is to win race and championships with the best equipment you can provide your drivers with.
We know that Red Bull and Renault can win races and championships. Over four years, we saw Red Bull and Renault with former driver Sebastian Vettel winning four consecutive Drivers and Constructor’s Championships and we know that both parties have the personnel, the expertise and the resources needed to be successful.
With Horner’s claims of a engine equalisation needed to help Mercedes rivals that was suggested earlier this season to catch up to them is non-sense. At the end of the day, Red Bull and Renault were successful for four years and we credited them at the time for producing the best power unit and car and they deserved their success without a shadow of a doubt.
To me, Horner is not happy with how his team and Renault are not performing and rightly so; even if their junior team Toro Rosso appear to be performing better than them at the moment. But to ask for an equalisation rule because they aren’t winning like they used to is childish and he needs to accept the fact that Mercedes are doing the best job and have produced the best power unit on the grid. The sooner Horner and Red Bull accept this fact; the better.
But at the moment, they need in my opinion to work closely together to resolve their issues with the power unit and their performance on track to get back to that position we know both parties can get to.
I will now flip the coin. Renault are stating that they are making progress and you could argue that they appear at the moment to be lacking compared to the Toro Rosso team. Toro Rosso had a reasonable testing period over the winter and enjoyed success in Melbourne when Carlos Sainz Jr scored points at his debut, Max Verstappen scored his first points in Malaysia and then both drivers scoring when they had the opportunity to.
With both Red Bull and Toro Rosso undergoing different directions with regards to the designs of their cars as you would expect. Under Newey, Red Bull have always pushed their design philosophy to the limit with their packaging and their aerodynamics that has lead to issues with their reliability. Compared to Toro Rosso, they appear to design a car that allows more scope and is able as a result to achieve higher speeds on the circuit but cannot match Red Bull through the corners which has always been their strength.
So you could state that the different design philosophies adopted by both teams could play an important impact on how the Renault power unit performs on the circuit and at the moment, Toro Rosso appear to have a handle on reliability compared to Red Bull and this is another area that Red Bull have simply got to investigate and get a handle on as soon as possible.
With Renault publically stating that there are issues that needed to be addressed with Red Bull and are not shying away from this fact; you could argue that Renault at least are not in denial like Red Bull are at the moment and want to resolve the issues where they should be resolved which is behind the scenes rather than a public show of comments that will not help either side to move forward and try to beat their rivals.
As for the situation with Audi, I feel that it is wrong what the Red Bull team are doing here. At the end of the day, the VW group is in a period of transition due to a change in leadership and they should be allowed to see if they want to enter the sport on their OWN merits; rather than in my opinion doing it because Red Bull wants them to as they are sick of dealing with Renault.
If Audi where to enter F1 on their own merits, it would be to add to their portfolio of motorsport, to try and build on what they achieved in the sector so far, they believe that they can do and have the funds to commit to the project and also the simple purpose of advertising their brand globally and selling more cars which allows them to racing in the first place.
Red Bull and what they are doing by speaking out about this in the media publically today, in my way of thinking, is putting Audi in a dangerous position.
There is no denying that Audi have been successful in other motorsports such as LMP1 or WEC and that they have a proven track of success and I understand why Red Bull are interested in them coming to F1.
But that level of success is not transferrable to F1. You might be successful in other forms of motorsport, but it takes time, resources and personnel to build up to that level of performance and Red Bull to me feel that this is a quick fix for their problems. Well, it wouldn’t be.
If Red Bull went into partnership with Audi; they would have to undergo a period of firstly transition and then development just like McLaren are with Honda at the moment.
So it begs the question; what would Red Bull do then? The same as what they have done with Renault? Maybe.
Yes it is very nice for Red Bull to show an interest in joining Audi in partnership and of course the group will take their interest very seriously; but for me its blackmail in a way what they have said to the media today.
It would appear to many yet again that Red Bull aren’t happy or cannot accept the fact that they are losing and having a temper tantrum to get their way again.
If Red Bull truly meant their threat; they would have taken action or steps to show that they follow through with what they say and they haven’t. They just need to get their heads in gear, work in partnership with Renault and sort out their issues.
After this season, if Red Bull want to leave Renault for another manufacturer after their deal expires; so be it. I understand that.
But for me its simple, Audi need to fully evaluate if they want to enter F1 at a time when the cost of competing; never mind leading at the front is at an all time high.
Can the group afford significant amount of investment and capital to commit to Formula One in the long term and get the level of success that they are currently achieving in other forms of motorsport?
That is for them to answer, not Red Bull. Audi need to come into motorsport for their own reasons and not because they have been forced to.
And my words of advice to them would be that if Red Bull can treat Renault in this way, what’s to stop them doing the same to Audi if things go the same way again if they do secure an partnership with them?
That is the challenge of going motor racing right there; if you do the job, you get the results. Right now, the fact of the matter is that Red Bull aren’t and they cannot stomach that fact; simple as.