Horner shares concerns over logistics of a potential Renault engine deal
The Brit restated their "plan A" option is to take over the Honda program - an option he feels would be better for F1 despite the necessary freeze.
The French F1 manufacturer used to supply engines for Red Bull before an ugly divorce saw the contentious relationship end after 2018. Reliability issues with its power unit that year, as well as in years prior, caused what had seemed an irreparable rift between the two parties.
Having been working separately of each other for two full seasons now, however, a remarriage of the two organizations might be forced upon them. And, though relations could be rekindled with relative ease, Red Bull chief Horner has expressed concern over the ease with which Renault could handle a customer of their size.
Prior to Red Bull abandoning Renault, Toro Rosso - now called AlphaTauri - did the same. By the end of 2018, two teams were out from their roster, and with McLaren's announcement coming last year that it will be using Mercedes power from 2021, Renault were left without any engine customers in the future.
As a result, they began a philosophical shift, as they prepared themselves to serve as solely a team. This means that, were they to have to rekindle their relationship with Red Bull and AlphaTauri, they may not be in a position to conveniently do so.
It's for this reason that Horner, and his colleagues at Red Bull, greatly favor the idea of purchasing Honda's intellectual property, and absorbing their program to form an in-house engine department. The Brit calls this "plan A".
"All focus is on plan A," he told Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle. "Toto’s made Mercedes’ case very clear. Obviously Ferrari have got their own issues that they’re dealing with. Renault don’t really want to supply us. Their aspirations as a team obviously have changed.
"It’s inconvenient to supply a team like Red Bull, we’re not a standard customer team, we’re not a small team. Obviously we’ve got a little bit of time," Horner continued. "We’ve got just under 18 months to get ourselves sorted.
"But the more we look, there really only is one option that works and that would be to agree something with Honda where we could take on the IP for the Honda engine. But of course that would have to be dependent on the regulations.
"It would only make sense for an independent engine supplier, as Red Bull would effectively be, if there was a freeze because it would just be impossible to fund the kind of development spend that goes on with these engines," Horner summed up.
Pressed by Brundle on what a plan such as this could look like, Horner divulged only that details would need to be privately discussed with Honda. He also restated that an engine development freeze beginning in 2022 would be a necessity.
"All that details needs to be fixed with Honda’s senior management," he said. "But it’s so dependent on what the regulations are going to be. It’s absolutely fundamental that there has to be an engine freeze with these power units until the introduction of the new engines."
Horner argued that a freeze to allow them the time to develop a program would be to the betterment of the sport, which should have, in his view, four engine manufacturers. "It’s a big wake-up call for Formula 1 to have a major engine manufacturer like Honda walk away from the sport at the end of ’21," he said.
"That leaves only three engine suppliers. That’s a very precarious place for the sport to be. So that’s why the governing body really needs to take control of this. The FIA, the commercial rights holder, they need to step up and do their bit.
"I think that for Formula 1 to lose an engine manufacturer is not a good thing. It would be criminal to see those engines just on a shelf somewhere in a Japanese warehouse."
[This story was written by me for FormulaRapida and edited by Darshan Chokhani]