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Red Bull scenarios: The possible outcomes for F1's unsettled team

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Red Bull scenarios: The possible outcomes for F1's unsettled team
Oct 13, 2015, 1:13 PM

The paddock in Sochi was abuzz all weekend with discussion about Red Bull and its threat to leave the sport if it does not get a competitive engine...

The paddock in Sochi was abuzz all weekend with discussion about Red Bull and its threat to leave the sport if it does not get a competitive engine. Bernie Ecclestone devoted much of his weekend to discussions with team boss Christian Horner, director Helmut Marko and other key figures on the engine supply side to try to find a solution. He even said on Friday that he believes it can be sorted out.

So what are the different possible scenarios for what may happen next in this saga?

Red Bull and Toro Rosso have been told by Ferrari that they can have a 2015 supply of engines. That is probably going to be fine for Toro Rosso and that deal is ready to sign if and when the main team sorts itself out with something more competitive.

We've spoken to most of the key players and reflected on what F1 history tells you about these situations and here is our analysis of the possible scenarios.

Horner, Lauda, Wolff

Red Bull gets 2016 Mercedes or Ferrari engines

Speaking to the key players in this triangle over the weekend there is no movement at Mercedes. Red Bull moved towards a split with Renault this summer because Helmut Marko thought the team could have a supply of Mercedes engines, via his fellow Austrian Niki Lauda. But this was stopped from happening and there is no wriggle room, apparently.

Ferrari don't want to be left looking like the bad guys in this situation. They have the same issues with Red Bull as Mercedes; i) they don't like Red Bull's aggressive attitude to rivals and ii)they don't want to be beaten by a strong customer. But Ferrari is more vulnerable than Mercedes on this as their chassis is weaker.

Niki Lauda, Helmut Marko

Ferrari say that it's too late for them. They cannot manufacture key components like engine blocks and crankshafts in time, seeing as it is now late October and the cars start testing in three and half months. It takes that long to make a F1 crankshaft. This is one of the reasons why only Mercedes works team has the Phase IV engine at the moment, not the customers like Williams.

Also Ferrari is up against it as it's doing a big update for 2016 with a narrower engine block and some other big changes, requiring a new gearbox so it's pushed to make enough engines for Sauber and Haas, let alone Red Bull.

JA on F1 has checked with F1 engine specialists and they say that this argument is plausible.

Behind the scenes meetings are planned this week to finalise development rules for 2016. All manufacturers are in favour of freeing up development, which will allow the rivals to close up to Mercedes. But all teams will have to agree for it to go ahead.

Red Bull can leverage its two team votes (Red Bull and Toro Rosso) to try to get the engine situation to its advantage. If a more open 2016 development plan is agreed, with more 'tokens' then Ferrari may feel calmer about giving Red Bull 2016 engines, as it would be able to stay a few developments steps ahead with the works team. But they'd need in excess of 30hp more than Red Bull to offset the chassis performance.

Conclusion: Hard to imagine much movement here, unless the Engine Development meetings yield a breakthrough. Some sort of 11th hour deal with Ferrari is many people's likely option, but the logistics make it tough for testing and the early races. They may be able to start with the development engine Kimi Raikkonen will use from the next race in Austin onwards. This requires a new gearbox, however.

Renault F1

Red Bull stays with Renault

This one started to gain traction over the weekend as Ferrari sent out some clear signals that it is not minded to supply 2016 engines to Red Bull. The divorce papers have not been signed yet between Red Bull and Renault but there would have to be a spectacular climb down from Red Bull management for this to happen.

There is a tremendous amount of ill feeling at Renault about the way Red Bull has treated them and spoken about their shortcomings, while not giving them as much credit for the four world titles won between 2010 and 2013.

From Red Bull's point of view Renault has totally let them down in 2015, after a disappointing 2014 product they have gone backwards and have not taken advantage of things Red Bull tried to put in place and invest in to speed up a fix. Technical boss Adrian Newey has told Reuters today that he cannot really see a reconciliation,

"Unfortunately, our relationship with Renault is pretty terminal - there’s been too much of a marriage breakdown, so we have no engine." he said.

From a practical point of view, staying with Renault would help the Red Bull engineers as they would not have the stress of engineering the car to a new engine and making a new gearbox from scratch.

As we mentioned at the weekend, there is some wriggle room here as Renault is still finalising terms for its takeover of Lotus and Ecclestone can 'incentivise' them to supply Renault engines in many ways within that deal.

Conclusion: Not inconceivable, has some room for manoeuvre in a business sense, but politically it may require some heads to roll. Cyril Abiteboul's at Renault is one possibility, but they may ask for changes at Red Bull too.

Red Bull F1

Interim solution while Red Bull start making their own engine

An interim solution is possible, but only if a real winning option lies beyond. If the VW emissions scandal had not happened and the possibility to do something with Audi or VW in 2018 was on the table, for example, then a solution could be found with Ferrari 2015 engines perhaps to make everyone happy.

One thing that Red Bull is not going to do is make its own engine. The costs involved and the investment in technology is so huge and then at the end of it you could have a product like this year's Honda. If the world's largest engine maker cannot get it right, what hope would a niche specialist have on ultra-sophisticated energy recovery systems, especially with Mercedes and Ferrari having had a five year head start?

Conclusion: Interim solution is possible but what is the long term prize?

Christian Horner, Ross Brawn

Red Bull pulls out and Horner takes on the team, a la Ross Brawn

Again not inconceivable. If Dietrich Mateschitz is out of love with the sport and fed up with the situation he may wish to wash his hands of the thing. In that scenario he would have a big fine to pay to F1, as he committed to 2020. This solution would keep the team in F1 and save Mateschitz about $500m in fines.

At the same time the team is entitled to $75m a year for the next five years in bonus payments from F1 plus prize money which even this year for P4 in the championship is around $65m. So Christian Horner could take the team on with that budget F1 money plus some 'tide you over' sponsorship from Red Bull and look to establish strategic partnerships going forward. There would be some redundancies among the 800 staff, as there were when Brawn took on the Honda team in 2009, but nothing like the bloodbath that a full exit and withdrawal would mean.

In this scenario the four Red Bull contracted drivers would be interesting to watch. Horner may move to get Max Verstappen's contract included in the deal, dropping Kvyat possibly.

Conclusion: Not the primary objective; that is to stay in as Red Bull Racing. But certainly more likely than making 800 jobless and losing an F1 team completely.

Red Bull F1

Nuclear Option - Red Bull quits F1 and starts its own series

One poster left a comment last night with a scenario which is worth reflecting on; "if RBR starts the RBR international Formula series, which will have Newey F1 cars and V8/10 engines, all drivers have the same equipment, let’s say they offer c$25m to attract all the top drivers." It may sound outlandish but Red Bull do like to own a series and they know a thing or two about digital content creation and distribution as well as TV rights. It's highly improbable, but intriguing to consider.

As for Toro Rosso, all roads seem to lead to them using the 2015 Ferrari engine, which many in the team feel is a good step forward from where they are now; although they'd be giving something away to rivals like Sauber and Haas in power next year, they back themselves as better chassis makers and the drivers appear to be top class.

What do you think will happen? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below

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