Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso will part company with Renault at the end of the season and use Ferrari engines in 2016.
The announcement – which is expected in a matter of weeks – comes off the back of Mercedes deciding not to supply either of the drinks giant’s teams with its own power units.
Their reasoning is completely understandable: if the Red Bull Racing chassis’ are up to par and as good as everyone believes, then the works Mercedes team could well find its supremacy being challenged by a customer outfit. That would not be a good look for the upper management at Stuttgart, which have signed off on hundreds of millions of dollars in a successful return of the Silver Arrows to F1.
This is despite immense pressure from F1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone to supply engines to Red Bull, which has continually made threats to quit the sport altogether if it cannot get a competitive motor. The Milton Keynes squad swept to four successive Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship lockouts between 2010-2013 with barely any credit given to Renault, and now that its competitiveness has waned it moved to throw the French engine builder under the bus at the first opportunity.
Red Bull’s conduct has been quite disgraceful in the eyes of many, and irreparably damaged the perception of the team being able to work well with its suppliers. Pirelli could certainly attest to that sentiment…
The flipside is that Red Bull and Toro Rosso will use Ferrari engines next year, provided they are able to wrangle their way out of their contracts with Renault, who will be happy to see the back of them at the right price.
The money will need to be enough for Renault, as it will have to use those funds to finalise its aims of buying out Lotus. Being government-owned and funded, Renault needs the settlement cash from Red Bull and an agreed ‘historical loyalty bonus payment’ from Formula One Management to fund the purchase, and that’s still assuming it can agree to terms with Lotus…
Should all of that go ahead, Lotus’ Mercedes engines will be up for grabs and they are certainly headed in the direction of the Manor team, who will be happy to take them and Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein if he comes as part of the deal.
Provided all of the dots line up and Renault is able to purchase Lotus, then there will be eleven teams on the grid next year assuming no one else hits the wall. Ferrari will power five teams (Scuderia Ferrari, Sauber, Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Haas F1), while Mercedes will have four (Mercedes AMG, Williams, Force India and Manor). Honda desperately needs a ‘B’ team to help its struggling engine development, but will be stuck as a one-car outfit with McLaren, while Renault will supply its own works outfit if it acquires Lotus.
Aside from Honda, no other outside manufacturer appears willing or interested to join the Formula 1 ranks in the sport’s new green technology era.
Image via Red Bull Racing