Christian Horner has told Sky Sports F1 that taking over Honda’s engine project is Red Bull’s “only option that works” for 2022 and beyond – but only if Formula 1 freezes its power unit rules.
Red Bull, Mercedes’ main rivals in F1 2020, and sister team AlphaTauri have been left in the lurch by Honda’s decision to withdraw from the sport at the end of next season, which will leave just three engine suppliers.
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But in an exclusive interview with Sky F1’s Martin Brundle, in which Horner also discussed Alex Albon’s future and possible replacements, the team boss said that with Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari deals unlikely, Red Bull are intent on continuing with Honda power despite their impending exit.
“The more we look, there really only is one option that works,” he said. “And that would be to try and agree something with Honda where we take on the IP [intellectual property] for the Honda engine and essentially it would become a Red Bull engine.”
Red Bull would only look to maintain Honda’s engines, so Horner stressed that their “Plan A” is reliant on F1 changing its rules so teams cannot develop their power units post-2021.
“It would only make sense to be an independent engine supplier, as Red Bull would effectively be, if there was a freeze,” he stated. “Because it would just be impossible to fund the kind of development spend that currently goes on with these engines.
“It’s so dependent on what the regulations are going to be. It’s absolutely fundamental that there needs to be an engine freeze with these power units, until the introduction of the new engine [in 2026].”
Teams may be reticent to agree to such a freeze, but Horner insisted: “Basically it’s down to the FIA. It’s a big wake-up call to Formula 1 to have a major manufacturer like Honda walk away from the sport at the end of ’21.
“That leaves only three engine suppliers, and that’s a very precarious place for the sport to be. That’s why the governing body really needs to take control of this.”
Asked if Red Bull would consider leaving F1 if they can’t take on Honda’s project, he added: “The FIA, and Liberty [Media] the commercial rights holder, they need to step up and do their bit.
“For Formula 1, to lose an engine manufacturer is not a good thing. It would be criminal to see those engines just on a shelf somewhere in a Japanese warehouse.”
Why no Renault engine for Red Bull?
Mercedes are powering four teams – McLaren, Racing Point, Williams and their own manufacturer outfit – in 2021 and so have already ruled out supplying their nearest competitors on the grid.
Ferrari, meanwhile, are set to provide engines to three teams – but have the worst power unit in F1 at present.
That leaves Renault, who aren’t powering any other team bar their own, but Horner is doubtful of a reunion between Red Bull and Renault despite their four world championships together between 2010 and 2013.
“At the moment, all focus is on Plan A,” he said. “Toto [Wolff, Mercedes’ boss] has made his case very clear. And obviously Ferrari have their own issues they are dealing with.
“Renault don’t really want to supply us, their aspirations as a team obviously have changed. It’s inconvenient to supply a team like Red Bull, we’re not a standard customer team, we’re not a small team.”
But could Max Verstappen’s future be affected?
“He needs a competitive engine just as much as we do,” said Horner of Red Bull’s star driver. “He knows and trusts Red Bull, he has confidence in the programme, and our aspirations as a team.
“Max trusts the people, he likes the environment, he feels comfortable in the environment, as we do in him. We share that shared goal and objective which is to win the world title.”
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