Honda has announced that they will be leaving the sport at the end of the 2021 season, which means that Red Bull will need a new engine supplier for themselves and AlphaTauri for the 2022 campaign and beyond.
However, if there are current reports, both teams may not be in Formula 1 in 2022.
Honda’s bombshell has left a lot of uncertainty about what options are available to Red Bull in the future. So let’s try to clarify the situation a bit and sort the possible scenarios from best to worst.
Try to find a new manufacturer for Formula 1
This must surely be the worst way Red Bull can go down. Yes, it would allow the team to maintain the independence it longs for, but trying to get a new engine manufacturer into Formula 1 in a year and a half is certainly a no-go.
The complexity of these turbo-hybrid units means that Formula 1 is virtually inaccessible to suppliers outside the current network names such as Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Honda until the engine rules are available for review in 2026, the earliest.
And if the complexity is insufficient for companies to assemble the manpower required to manufacture these PUs, the costs are certainly high. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner announced that the team is paying around £ 200m per season for its aggregates.
And even if Red Bull has miraculously brought a new supplier into Formula 1 for 2022, their chances of being competitive from the start are almost zero.
Honda returned to the sport in 2015 and their relationship with McLaren came to an end at the end of the 2017 season after a string of uncompetitive and unreliable engines.
It wasn’t until 2019, in Honda’s first season for the Red Bull factory team, that they managed to assemble a powerful engine. So could Red Bull really afford to risk a similar timeframe to challenge the top of the sport again?
One thing is for sure – her star Max Verstappen wouldn’t stick with it to find out if that is the case.
Red Bull takes over Honda’s intellectual property and is pushing for an engine freeze
The next option, which Red Bull seems to be working the hardest for, is to take Honda’s intellectual property and keep working with their power units.
In theory it makes sense. Red Bull would remain an independent team with an exclusive engine, but this scenario poses great danger.
According to the team, they didn’t get into Formula 1 as an engine supplier and therefore lack the expertise and potential funding to become one.
And the latest report from Auto Motor und Sport made it clear that Red Bull will try to withdraw both teams from Formula 1 if they are not allowed to take over Honda’s IP from 2022 with a freeze on engine development.
Mercedes is on board with this proposal, but of course they are … their engine is the benchmark everyone aims for, so a freeze would suit them well.
But for Renault and Ferrari trying to catch up with the Mercedes PU, an engine freeze would be catastrophic, which is why Ferrari is not in the mood to say yes. Well, that and the fact that Formula 1 engines are to use 100% climate-neutral biofuels by 2023.
Ferrari is extremely unlikely to move in its stance, and of course they have a veto right if Red Bull has the teams and the FIA on their side, which means the Austrian company will then have two options – race with one Motor they cannot develop or leave the sport. The latter would certainly be a marketing disaster for Red Bull and a nightmare for Formula 1.
Ferrari will deliver Red Bull and AlphaTauri from 2022
Now we come to the more logical options for Red Bull. Another reason Ferrari is reportedly failing to comply with Red Bull’s demands is that they are not buying the argument that they are in an emergency.
Why panic when Red Bull and AlphaTauri can be powered by Ferrari from 2022?
It wouldn’t be ideal if Red Bull and Ferrari both hope to fight for wins, and maybe even titles for 2022, but at least they would have a stable supplier. Ferraris in the past have traditionally been the ones to threaten their exit from Formula 1, but they really aren’t going anywhere.
But Ferrari’s engines have declined sharply since those tech guidelines in 2019, and the Ferrari team has now slipped into the lower end of the midfield.
So it would be an absolute risk for Red Bull to accept them as an engine supplier. Once again, they have to satisfy Verstappen’s desire for titles that hang over them.
Red Bull returns to Renault
What we now think is the best scenario. We see no other realistic option for Red Bull than to put Renault back on the Christmas card list and ask for an offer to supply the engine as a gift.
Sure, their relationship in the past ended dramatically, but now it’s very different.
Horner’s rivalry with Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul was one of the biggest hotspots of the saga, but he is expected to take over running the Alpine brand from Renault, which means the Formula 1 team, which will be called Alpine from 2021, may be led by another face in 2022.
All of these changes have come about through the work of the new Renault CEO Luca de Meo.
Horner himself said that it would be completely different to work with Renault. The French manufacturer is looking for a partner team, especially not a customer team, and Red Bull representatives met their colleagues from Renault at the Eifel Grand Prix.
So this is certainly the route Red Bull will take.
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