Analysis: Is it game over for Red Bull in F1?

Red Bull's engine dramas have unfolded in a way that not even that team would have predicted. Is this the end of the road for Red Bull in F1 or is there light at the end of the tunnel? Jonathan Noble analyses a fascinating situation.

Analysis: Is it game over for Red Bull in F1?
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB11
Dietrich Mateschitz, CEO and Founder of Red Bull
Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull Racing RB11
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB11
Dietrich Mateschitz, CEO and Founder of Red Bull with Dr Helmut Marko, Red Bull Motorsport Consultant
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB11
Dietrich Mateschitz, Owner of Red Bull
Helmut Marko, Red Bull Racing
Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull Racing RB11
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing with Dr Helmut Marko, Red Bull Motorsport Consultant
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB11
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB11
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB11

To say that Red Bull has got itself into a bit of a pickle in Formula 1 right now would be a slight understatement.

With less than six months to go before the 2016 season starts in Australia, neither Red Bull Racing nor Toro Rosso have an engine supply deal in place, and there are growing doubts that they are going to get one.

It's a scenario that the energy drink giant was not predicting would unfold.

After deciding that the breakdown in its relationship with Renault was terminal, and having cancelled its engine contracts for 2016, Red Bull had been pretty bullish that either Mercedes or Ferrari would step up to the plate.

After all, as long ago as the Canadian Grand Prix, Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne had spoken in general teams about offering some engines to Milton Keynes if needed.

But that was then, and this is now: and Red Bull is finding itself on the receiving end of political pressures from those in the F1 paddock who are fearful of signing their own death warrant.

In simple terms, why would Mercedes and Ferrari – whose bosses have invested heavily in time and money to build up their own teams – want to hand competitive engines to the one rival that they fear the most?

Competitive interests

It's perfectly understandable why Mercedes said no, and why Ferrari is reluctant to give anything other than updated 2015-specification power units for now.

For Red Bull is a team that is known to be brilliant with aerodynamics, it is a team that operates bang on the edge of the regulations to ensure that performance is extracted to the maximum, and it effectively has an open chequebook to pay what is necessary to succeed. It is a ruthless winning machine.

Could you imagine the reaction from Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel if they were told that their bosses had agreed to help out Red Bull, in a move that could potentially cost them world championships over the coming seasons?

I am sure it would not be calm and considered.

War of words

While the stance of Mercedes and Ferrari is not so surprising, what has opened eyes is the aggressive way that Red Bull has been talking in public, and even criticising those it wants to do a deal with.

For to accuse Ferrari of 'playing games' with what has been offered, shows either some big balls or small-mindedness.

It is one thing publicly criticising a current partner in a bid to highlight the need for change – just look at Fernando Alonso's radio comments in Japan – but it is quite another adopting that tactic against someone you are trying to do a deal with.

After all, you would not go to an interview for your dream job, demand the same salary and perks as the CEO, publicly slate the company, and then expect to get hired.

But what Red Bull's public aggression shows is that its back is up against the wall, and it is going to try anything it can to convince the powers-that-be that if it does not get what it wants, F1 is going to lose two teams.

Rules avenue

Its willingness to be vocal against Ferrari has opened up another scenario though, for it could yet hold an ace up its sleeves amid the fight to get next year's engine regulations changed.

At the moment, Ferrari is supporting a push to open up in-season development again as it bids to deliver the gains it wants to close the gap to Mercedes.

A rules loophole that allowed the use of 'tokens' during the current year has been closed off for 2016 by the FIA, which means all manufacturers have until February 28 next year to sign off the designs of their new power units.

For that rule to change, and manufacturers to get the extra time they want, it will require unanimous support. It means that Red Bull could in theory hold out alone in blocking it unless it gets the 2016 performance parity it is after.

After all, if its only option it to race with updated 2015 power units, then anything to ensure that its rivals do not pull further clear would be sensible for its own competitive interests.

Such a route for Red Bull may well be interpreted as an act of war, and get its relationship with Ferrari off to a pretty bad start, but that is better than the financial and emotional pain of turning its back on F1 and shutting down two teams.

The machinations behind the scenes are fascinating. But one thing has become blatantly clear in the last two weeks: Red Bull is not giving up on F1 without a fight.

shares
comments
Mercedes still fears repeat of Singapore nightmare
Previous article

Mercedes still fears repeat of Singapore nightmare

Next article

Vandoorne missing out on F1 would be "unacceptable", says ART boss

Vandoorne missing out on F1 would be "unacceptable", says ART boss
Load comments
Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer Prime

Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer

Earning praise from rivals has been a welcome sign that Lando Norris is becoming established among Formula 1's elite. But the McLaren driver is confident that his team's upward curve can put him in the mix to contend for titles in the future, when he's hoping the compliments will be replaced by being deemed an equal adversary

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention Prime

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention

After a disastrous 2020 in which it slumped to sixth in the F1 constructors' standings, Ferrari has rebounded strongly and is on course to finish third - despite regulations that forced it to carryover much of its forgettable SF1000 machine. Yet while it can be pleased with its improvement, there are still steps it must make if 2022 is to yield a return to winning ways

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Prime

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Motorsport.com's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer Tim Wright explains.

Formula 1
Dec 1, 2021
How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison Prime

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells Stuart Codling about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Prime

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as Ben Anderson discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren Prime

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren

From being lapped by his own teammate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Prime

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing wind tunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher Prime

The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles as a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021