Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Nurburgring, 2020

Wolff suspects Red Bull won’t “need to rely on current power unit suppliers” after 2021

2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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Mercedes has ruled out providing power units to Red Bull following their split from Honda, while Ferrari have indicated they are open to it.

However Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff suggested Red Bull may find an alternative to seeking engines from F1’s three remaining suppliers. This could involve Red Bull taking over the production of Honda’s engines.

The announcement of Honda’s departure means Red Bull and AlphaTauri are seeking new power unit suppliers from 2022. If they are unable to agree deals then, under F1’s rules, Renault would be forced to provide them with engines, as they will not have any customers after this year.

Wolff said there were “various reasons” why Mercedes will not provide engines to Red Bull, including the expansion of their customer engine programme. From next year four teams – Williams, Aston Martin, McLaren and Mercedes themselves – will use their engines.

“We are supplying four teams, including us,” said Wolff. “We are almost in a state that we can’t make power units for all of us. So there is no capacity.

“I have no doubt that Helmut [Marko, Red Bull motorsport consultant] will have a plan B, and probably doesn’t need to rely on any of the current power unit suppliers.”

Wolff’s opposite number at Ferrari, Mattia Binotto, said Ferrari needed to start considering the idea of supplying Red Bull soon if it is going to happen. “Obviously, we were not considering it. It’s something on which we need to start considering now. I think we have not decided as far as I think it will be down to Red Bull eventually to look at us and to ask for a supply.”

Ferrari previously supplied Red Bull with engines in 2006, and their junior team – previously called Toro Rosso – on several occasions.

Binotto said that suppling the team would take “a lot of energy” which would need to be taken into consideration. “They are a great team, no doubt. I think that supplying them is, as well, lot of energy somehow, which is required, but something on which we need to consider, on which we have no position yet, on which we need certainly to to take our time to think about and have a decision.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said the early notice of Honda’s exit gave them time to find a new supply but Binotto viewed it as very short notice for a manufacturer to organise.

“I think timing-wise, it’s very little time because we need to organise ourselves.” He said, “2022 is just here behind, it is tomorrow, somehow. And we said, it was sudden news from Honda and I think that now we need really to consider something which wasn’t even considered a few days ago.”

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2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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25 comments on “Wolff suspects Red Bull won’t “need to rely on current power unit suppliers” after 2021”

  1. Unsurprising. Only if Williams would willingly give up the Mercedes PU for Renault or Ferrari power or if Mercedes were to continue in F1 solely as a PU-supplier, both of which are unlikely to happen.

  2. “Wolff said there were “various reasons” why Mercedes will not provide engines to Red Bull”

    The main reason being Wolff’s fear of actual competition that might hurt his wallet!

    1. They’re pretty jammed with customers as it is, and going back several years the story hasn’t changed for Merc supplying RBR…you don’t hand the keys to your war chest to your strongest rival.

    2. Oconomo

      Or the possibility of being slagged off left right and centre when it won’t all go RB way?

      Or even the fact they are supplying half the field at a reduced cost and are at at the maximum required or allowed by the fia?

      Therefore the factory is resourced to such and the extra investment would have you winging in the future at how much they invest even though the charges allowed would mean a loss?

      No course not, it’s because Merc is really really really scared of competition…

      And that Hamilton, don’t get me started….

      Duh!

    3. Mercedes have to supply 24 engines next year. If they were to supply redbull they’d also have to supply redbulls other team as well. So they’d have to supply 30 engines a year. And then when redbull can’t beat Mercedes you just know redbull would be saying its because Mercedes don’t give them the same engines

    4. It takes months to build an F1 engine. So more production means more production lines. Mercedes would have to buy the machinery and train the staff that that make these engines.

      1. Mercedes are laying off staff at the moment. Plenty of CVs to choose from.

    5. Why would they want competition? Providing RB with engines would be incredibly stupid and that is one thing Wolff is not.

  3. Didn’t they produce a lot more engines pet season a few years ago? I don’t understand these ‘production constraints’.

    I’m kinda curious about all these rumours about someone buying the Honda IP to these engines. Surely a return to Renault is the most likely option?

    1. @paeschli Yeah there is talk of that, but I guess we’ll only know once we hear more. For now, Renault is a no-brainer in that if need be RBR can have them by the way the rules go. But I am intrigued by TW’s suggestion there may be a plan B in the works. That would be great for F1 and great for RBR, if they can keep that fourth maker in F1 by whatever name or brand that might be, and be a works factory team rather than a customer team.

      We know this news of Honda leaving was not a surprise to RBR, so they likely have been laying some plan B ground work for a time already. Going to be really interesting to see what happens.

    2. What rumours? So far I only heard peaple in the forums wishing for it

  4. They simply don’t like RBR. That’s it.

    1. Which sensible engine supplier would though? Renault was still portrayed by Horner/Marko as a poor engine even while Red Bull was winning four championships on the trot.

      If things go wrong, it’s the engine’s fault. If things go well, it’s despite the engine.

      Honda spend hundreds of millions to get the engine on par with Mercedes. GPS data shows that there is not much difference left. Still Red Bull blames the engine. By now it should be clear it’s their car/drivers where the issue is.

      They will even rebadge the engine for a sponsor.

      So the manufacturer takes a (forced) loss on production of the engines and there is no (positive) return.

      1. Renault was still portrayed by Horner/Marko as a poor engine even while Red Bull was winning four championships on the trot.

        family of a certain Donald T?

        They do had a lot of comments about Renault engines for some years.. in fact the hybrid years. And very rightly so!

    2. And so do I. Who wants to supply a team with Horner and Marko? No one wants to have their engines being complained for every race that they do not perform well. I believe Toto is just saying that they are full house just to cover the fact that they do not want to supply a rival team. I expect Red Bull to have planned for this already. Otherwise, I simply don’t care for them anymore.

      1. No one wants to have their engines being complained for every race that they do not perform well.

        Te problem was that happened every other race.. so yes. you will have some complaints.

  5. Stevan Vasiljević
    9th October 2020, 18:53

    A bit OT, but Ferrari is the one who should be buying Honda engine IP. Ferrari current engine is so underpowered that they might as well scrap it altogether and start producing a copy of Honda engine, only rebranded.

  6. I think it’s interesting he says he expects Red Bull to already have a plan B that doesn’t include the current power unit suppliers. I’m quite interested by the possibilities available to them – as in bringing in a new PU, or continuing Honda’s project alone and creating a ‘Red Bull’ branded engine. Which, doing it themselves is really the only way Red Bull are ever going to be happy with their PU. As a fan of them, seeing a Red Bull branded car win a race using an engine also built by them would be pretty cool.

    1. Yes, that was an interesting remark. Does “a Plan B that doesn’t include the current power unit suppliers” mean Red Bull are pulling out of F1 or does it mean they are going to get an engine from a different manufacturer? It would be a very sad day for F1 if Red Bull decide to sell their teams, so hopefully that isn’t what Toto meant, but that they will be getting their engines from someone other than a current supplier, e.g. maybe Porsche, Toyota.
      I just can’t see Red Bull wanting to be some manufacturer’s guinea pig, which leaves them either with running with one of the current manufacturers or taking over production of the Honda engine. If they did, then surely that means the end to rotating the Honda engineers through the F1 engine division, which can only be better for the engine.

  7. Andy Cowell, surely?

  8. He probably wants them to entangled with engine production so that Mercedes can win by an even bigger margin

  9. Imagine if RBR had Mercedes engine and never beat Mercedes. Conspiracies. Complains. I think RBR Mercedes is also bad publicity.

  10. “I think timing-wise, it’s very little time because we need to organise ourselves.” He said, “2022 is just here behind, it is tomorrow, somehow. And we said, it was sudden news from Honda and I think that now we need really to consider something which wasn’t even considered a few days ago.”

    Is he saying in two years they cannot make 12 extra engines?

  11. I have no doubt that Helmut [Marko, Red Bull motorsport consultant] will have a plan B, and probably doesn’t need to rely on any of the current power unit suppliers.

    My guess Andy Cowell and an experianced outside engine builder.

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