Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz has admitted that he is losing interest in keeping his teams in Formula 1, amid mounting frustrations with Renault.
Ahead of an Austrian Grand Prix on his home Red Bull Ring track, Mateschitz has dropped the firmest hint yet that unless there is a dramatic turnaround in engine performance he sees little reason to stay in the sport.
In a lengthy interview on the Red Bull-owned Speedweek site, Mateschitz said that multiple factors had left him disillusioned with F1 – and it was only a matter of time before he lost all desire to stay.
Speaking about Renault, he said: “They take from us not only time and money, but also the will and motivation. There is no driver and no chassis which is able to compensate for this lack of horsepower.
“As well as that, the regulations for aerodynamics are so strict that our designer Adrian Newey cannot use his full talent. And we have also used four engines [on both cars] already. So we will lose grid positions.
"What else has to happen that we will lose our motivation completely?"
Not forced to stay
Although Red Bull has made a commitment with Bernie Ecclestone to stay in F1 until 2020, Mateschitz reckoned that there was nothing that would force him to remain.
"How many teams went out despite the fact they had contracts?” he said. “You can't force one to stay, when he wants to go out."
He added: "I cannot predict now what will happen it two or three years, who will go out of Formula 1 or will come in. I don't know if we will have our teams still. In F1, it's better not to make any predictions."
Ferrari switch unlikely
"There is absolutely nothing in those [rumours]",” he said. “For 2016 we have no alternative to Renault"
Even longer term, after the Renault contract ends in 2016, Mateschitz suggested that becoming a customer Ferrari team would mean his outfit was no longer able to fight for titles.
"You can only get an engine which is good enough to take points from direct rivals,” he said. “But it will never be good enough to beat the factory team, which supplies you these engines.
"With a customer engine you will never win the world championship again.
"And also when we see that we don't have any chance to win the championship because of the restrictions on aerodynamics as well… then we just lose the desire. We are bad at being the support actors."
No way out
Renault is evaluating new prototype engine designs in a bid to make the progress it needs.
But without a step, Red Bull does not appear to have an obvious solution to its problems.
"We are still hoping [Renault will get better],” said Mateschitz. “Hope dies last."