Who Will Be Red Bull's New Engine Supplier?
With Honda's shock departure announced this morning, lets take a look at all the options Red Bull have for 2022 and the likelihood of them happening.
After 31 races, 4 victories and 13 podiums to their name and being the only engine manufacturer to win with two different teams since the start of the Hybrid-Era, Honda Racing F1 have announced they will be stepping back from their duties as Engine Supplier to both Red Bull and Alpha Tauri at the end of 2021, leaving just three engine suppliers in F1: Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault and with the least amount of engine suppliers in F1 since the introduction of the Hybrid-Era, what options do Red Bull have for 2022?
Why Have Honda Chosen To Leave?
Both announcements point to the same reason; Carbon neutrality and sustainability with Honda wanting to be "Carbon neutral by 2050", which means a shift of focus and manpower. Honda announced: "as the automobile industry undergoes a once-in-one-hundred-years period of great transformation, Honda has decided to strive for the “realization of carbon neutrality by 2050.”... Toward this end, Honda made the decision to conclude its participation in F1."
Following on from Honda's announcement, Red Bull made their own announcement with Team Principle Christian Horner saying "The shifting focus within the automotive industry has led to Honda’s decision to re-deploy their resources and we understand and respect the reasoning behind this. Their decision presents obvious challenges for us as a Team but we have been here before and with our strength in depth we are well prepared and equipped to respond effectively, as we have proven in the past".
The most unlikeliest of options. Mercedes will not want to strengthen a rival, and at the moment their only rival that can provide any sort of challenge. Come 2021, Mercedes will be supplying engines to three other teams: Williams, Racing Point (Aston Martin) & McLaren. If Horner and Red Bull can schmooze Mercedes into an almost impossible deal for engines for both Red Bull & Alpha Tauri that would mean over half of the teams would be Mercedes powered and although that would be great for Mercedes' pockets and to see a charging Red Bull with a supped up Mercedes Power Unit in the back, I think this is a bit of a pipe dream, but with the persistent rumours that Mercedes are willing to sell its operation in the future, the ideal scenario could become real.
Now before we dismiss this idea all together, there is some history between the two parties. Red Bull used Ferrari engines for a single season in 2006 to coincide with V8 engines being made mandatory for that season, the team finished 7th in the Constructors Championship that year, although the team were yet to be the dominant force they were in the years following. Red Bull were obligated to use Ferrari power in 2007, however, they announced at the start of the season that they would be taking on Renault Power and moving their contract with Ferrari over to Toro Rosso, who would use Ferrari Engines until 2013, and once more for a solitary season in 2016.
Hear me out on this, when it was announced Honda would be supplying the Power Units for Red Bull for 2019, it was a huge risk for both teams, with many people questioning Red Bulls decision as up until then Honda had a very forgettable reunion with McLaren between 2015-2017 which saw some of the worst on track performances from McLaren in its history with an underperforming Honda Power Unit, Red Bull took the risk and ultimately it did pay off for them, recording numerous wins and podiums. Ferrari's power unit is in a similar state, its underperforming and has become the meme of F1 due to its lack of power. But to those who have watched F1 for a long time, they know Ferrari's pedigree when it comes to engines and I have no doubt the Ferrari engine will improve dramatically over the coming seasons, and if Red Bull could get in there now and reap the benefits in the future, it could be exactly what they need to be a real force again in F1.
Another very unlikely option, since Formula 1 have only managed to entice one more engine manufacturer since 2014; Honda, and now they are leaving. Could the appeal of having an engine in the back of one of the most well known and most competitive teams be enough to entice new Manufacturers into F1? Red Bull, in an ideal world would love another Engine Supplier where they are effectively the factory team and are the main focus of the Manufacturer, but where could that come from? A shot in the dark, Toyota perhaps? They do have plenty of experience with hybrid engines. The V6 Turbo-Hybrid engines are notoriously complicated to make and would cost any potential Manufacturer millions of pounds in R&D amongst other things, hence why we haven't exactly seen Manufacturers lining up to become an engine supplier in F1. One can dream though...
The most likely option for Red Bull unless they can find other suitors, will be Renault. Red Bull and Renault, for the most part, had a successful relationship, starting in 2007 and with 4 Constructors Titles and 4 World Championships for a certain Sebastian Vettel between 2010-2013, but with the introduction of the Hybrid Era engines, the relationship quickly soured between the two parties with the Renault Package getting slower and dramatically less reliable by the season resulting in a less than amicable split in 2018.
Renault's engine has come on leaps and bounds in recent seasons and with the decline of Ferrari power, they have now become arguably the 2nd best power unit on the grid. Renault are also looking for a customer team to boost revenue for the team and have some more on track mileage for R&D. Both parties might not have a choice and might have to reconcile their relationship as FIA rules state that if Red Bull cannot find a suitable engine for 2022, then the FIA would supply an engine by Ballot between Renault and Ferrari, but with Ferrari having two customers and Renault having none, it would be more than likely result in Renault being given the responsibility to provide engines for Red Bull and Alpha Tauri.
Takehonda, instead of takeover? Get it? I'll see myself out. Finally, the last option for Red Bull, again very unlikely, would be to continue with Honda engines post 2022 but takeover the programme in some way. This could be either by negotiating a deal to sell its intellectual property and patterns so that Red Bull could continue to develop the engine or funding the facilities and resources. Red Bull do not have the facilities or the expertise to manufacture its own engines so this could be a happy medium for them, although this is all highly unlikely due to Honda's new Automotive targets as it completely wants to move away from F1.
What do you think Red Bull should do? Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article give me a like and follow me to be the first to know when I post an article.