Red Bull want F1 engine freeze to keep racing Honda design

2020 F1 season

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Red Bull wants Formula 1 to freeze its power unit rules after next season in order to continue using its Honda power units after the manufacturer leaves.

Honda has announced it will withdraw from the sport at the end of the 2021 F1 season. Red Bull has indicated that instead of switching to a different engine supplier, it may seek to continue using Honda’s hardware which it would service and maintain, but not develop.

The team’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko said this was their objective in an interview for Motorsport-Magazin.

“We are primarily working on replacing the Honda engine,” said Marko. “We are there and want to have a solution by the end of November.”

Marko said continuing to use their own engine was “the priority” for Red Bull. “However this can only be achieved if the engine and the surrounding area are completely frozen by the end of 2021 at the latest.”

Why F1 shouldn’t go down the independent engine manufacturer route
If Red Bull and AlphaTauri are able to continue using Honda-developed engines, they will also be able to maintain the technology sharing arrangement between the two teams, which allows them to reduce their spending.

However Marko made it clear Red Bull is only prepared to maintain the current engines, not develop them, which would bring significant costs.

“This complex engine is difficult enough if you only take care of maintenance and assembly,” he said. “We are currently investigating how this is possible from our side.

“But further development is not possible if you don’t have a technology centre like Sakura. We neither want to build that, nor can we finance it. We don’t want to or can’t finance it.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
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...

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96 comments on “Red Bull want F1 engine freeze to keep racing Honda design”

  1. “We don’t want to go back to Renault with our tail between our legs, Ferrari are even worse and Mercedes won’t deal with us… So please change the rules for us, F1.”

    1. ofcourse they wouldn’t to go back and nothing may happen either way in 2022 so good idea.

    2. Heehee, it’s funny because it’s true!

    3. We agreed with a development freeze for 2021 and a (for us unnecessary)budget cap to make sure half of the grid can keep racing (and despite Renault being desperate supplying engines to a actual competent team, we rather prefer not going back), so please do us this favour.
      (You already ruined our succesrun when you introduced this disastrous engine formula to please the manufacturers.)

    4. You’re joking but FIA already changed the rules because of them once when they mandated that the team with the least supplying engines has to supply the team that doesn’t have engines.

      1. If i were Renaut, i would be signing Haas and Williams to Engine Deals for 2022, which would make Ferrari obligied to supply Red bull. Haas im sure would be happy to go up in horsepower to Renault and Williams could be swayed at the right price I imagine.

        This is going to get very interesting and political i think.

        1. Why would Williams go to Renault whenthey have a deal with Mercedes. Perhaps u mean Haas and Alfa Romeo

  2. I don’t why I am surprised. It’s pretty classic Red Bull.

  3. So basically they ask an engine freeze up to 2025 (ou 26?), rendering the engine component a non-critical part. That’s funny for F1… Wait, just got the message that Racing point is looking at buying the 2020 Mercedes concept, but they would like a chassi and aero freeze till 2025, “because they don’t have the funding to develop it” ! ;-))))

    1. Yeah, the last F1 needs is yet another total development, so one team dominates for another 4-5 years.

      1. yet another total development lock up*

  4. Nell (@imabouttogoham)
    15th October 2020, 13:24

    So it’s more of a stay of execution rather than a full pardon. Eventually they’ll have to go to a engine manufacturer. They want a works deal, and it’s unlikely they’ll become the number one Mercedes or Renault engine team, unless they’ve got voodoo Alonso dolls

  5. Surely this is nearly impossible to pull off? I guess ‘reliability improvements’ will still be possible, even if there’s an engine freeze?

    1. I would think the same, yeah @paeschli

      1. My guess is that it’s a bargaining chip for engine talks with Renault.

        1. It’s just another kick to Renault imho

          1. maninhat I think it is moreso just a testament to the fact that you need to be a factory works team if at all possible with these hybrid units. They’ll be able to have Renault pus if need be but it would be better for all if they can keep another maker in F1 and be something closer to a works team by retaining Honda pus. Not saying I think it will happen but it’s understandable they’re trying.

    2. @paeschli Of course engine freeze is possible. It is a technical question and eventually comes down to many more things than with the v8s but there is nothing impossible about. Complex and difficult for sure. I’d guess red bull is not happy with just an engine freeze but wants some kind of parity. Nobody wants a situation where they are locked into disadvantage. No one less than ferrari now.

      And parity is pretty difficult considering how complex the engines are. Even with the engine modes rule. Teams already spend a ton of money just getting the engine maps right for each track and then you have power, harvesting, fuel consumption etc.. It is possible but also very complex. That being said it is a good idea as it would keep honda in f1 even if it was red bull just using their engines and making parts using some kind of license or whatever.

    3. Am I the only one having a deja vu moment? I distinctly remember Red Bull lobbying the FIA during the V8 era (after those regs were frozen) for permission to make changes to their Renault engine in the name of reliability improvements, & retuning so they were more on par with Ferrari & Mercedes. Those teams argued that the Renault had it’s own advantages (fuel economy being the biggest one) but nevertheless, Red Bull & Renault were allowed to work on their engine over the ’08 winter break while Mercedes & Ferrari weren’t. I don’t think I have to remind anyone how that worked out for them, but I will anyway: Red Bull were immediately a front runner, with Seb running Jenson Button awfully close in ’09. After the chassis regs changes, they unleashed their biggest secret weapon gleaned from their engine development: exhaust blowing. The rest as they say, was history.

    4. @paeschli AMuS just published that Red Bull threatens to leave if the engine was not frozen and said Ferrari would not accepted it.

  6. I don’t imagine this idea will be greeted with joy by Ferrari, Renault or even Mercedes. As in ‘you all have to keep your engines the same for the next 3 or 4 years to save us asking anyone else to supply us!’ Yes of course we agree….not.

    1. I don’t think Mercedes or Renault would be that bothered having arguably the 2 best engines. Ferrari on the other hand will definitely veto this.

  7. I can’t see Ferrari agreeing to not develop the hamster-in-a-wheel they have at the moment, I don’t think Ferrari customers would want to see an extended freeze on Engine development either.

  8. Surely that would be an utterly dire outcome for Ferrari and all their PU customers? How could they expect to get that passed? I suspect they have no intention of actually getting such a scenario made reality, and this is public chatter to influence private discussions around PU supply or partnerships with Honda for technical assistance.

  9. Merc will agree to an engine freeze when RBR agree to a chassis/aero freeze

    1. Mercedes basically just announced they don’t want to blow anymore more money on the team. So, I think this would suit them just fine, especially with the best power unit in the game.

      1. Yeah exactly, I’m pretty sure they’d love to freeze in the advantage they already have.

  10. How would that even work from a manufacturing perspective? Would they ask Honda to build an extra 3 year’s worth of engines for them to use through 2025 or would they somehow find someone to keep building the engine?

    1. @paulk They’d keep on using the 2021-spec PU until the end of the current engine formula cycle.

    2. @paulk Red Bull are basically stating we will pay for the manufacturing and maintenance, but they have no intention of funding R&D, which means the engine will very quickly get left behind as the other manufacturers will get around any ‘freeze’ by introducing developments and updates to ‘improve reliability’.

      1. @jerejj @optimaximal as Ryan explained below my question is more on how would Red Bull procure these 2021-spec Honda PUs all the way to 2025.

    3. Not to put words in Paul’s mouth, but I think he was more asking who would physically build the engine after Honda leaves? Meaning would Honda just produce several years of components in one final production run and Red Bull has to make those last for however many years the freeze runs? Will Honda stay on in the background and produce the bits for a certain cost? Or are Red Bull saying they think they can find a way to produce the engines on their own without a dedicated factory as long as they aren’t having to design anything?

      I mean even if NASA gave me the design and permission to manufacturer the retired space shuttle, I still wouldn’t have the equipment/expertise to do it lol

      1. That is exactly what I meant, thank you Ryan.

  11. Given the complexity and cost factors of these engines are arguably a large part of why Honda has walked and why F1 struggles to attract other manufacturers, what Red Bull are asking for is a pretty decent plan and keeps F1 with essentially four PU developers. I think it’d be also a good advertisement to other manufacturers thinking of entering if Red Bull could maintain it, and if it goes well Red Bull may well invest more into it. It’s a good idea for F1 long term for Red Bull to keep the Honda units.

    The alternative is forcing Red Bull and Renault into a partnership neither of them wants, skyrocket costs for Red Bull, ruining the connection to AlphaTauri and potentially pushing Red Bull to leave and hamstring the only team left that’s anywhere near Mercedes.

    1. @rocketpanda however, if you are Ferrari, the last thing you would want right now is an engine freeze that locks in a permanent disadvantage for them relative to Red Bull. As others have noted, why would they want to give Red Bull a permanent performance advantage over them by agreeing to such a measure?

      1. @rocketpanda @anon I’m splitting hairs here a bit to say Ferrari would have time and presumably are working very hard to improve their pu anyway, so if it were to get locked in I think there’s some chance it would be a better pu by next year than they have now. That said I just don’t see it happening. Will be interesting to hear what Brawn has to say on this.

        1. @robbie given that they were talking about late 2021 as being the latest that they would want to see this engine freeze coming in, it suggests Red Bull are lobbying for those changes to come sooner than that (i.e. within more like 6-9 months).

          Given the setback that Ferrari has had to take, which might well have undone multiple years worth of development, they are likely to want to get every day possible that they can to work on regaining their engine performance. Right now, there is very little incentive for them to want to support any form of engine freeze.

          1. @anon Agreed.

        2. Isn’t Brawn half-confident of having Honda return to F1 [personally, I think he is talking thru his @r$3!!].
          If Honda continue to make F1 PU parts & sell to RBR for maintenance [$$’s side business], Brawn may consider that a crack in the door.

    2. No Adam, it does not leave F1 with four PU developers; their plan specifically inviolves a development freeze, indicating that they at least have no wish to be a developer and they wish that to be imposed on the other three.

  12. What an absolutely bizarre suggestion. Might happen, though, now that everyone is scratching their heads over what they want the future to be!

    1. @shimks What’s most bizarre is that it’s the exact opposite of what Horner and Marko were campaigning for just a few years ago..

      Suddenly the fact that engine manufacturers still have a deficit to the Merc isn’t important for the sport anymore.

  13. I can see and understand both sides of the arguments here. But a lot of people forget that Red Bull are pretty much propping up the championship at the moment by owning 2 teams. In theory Dieter could take his ball (and all his money) home, thereby removing 4 cars from the grid. As the Liberty contracts for the race circuits/promoters state that there has to be a minimum of 20 cars on the grid, that’s the championship over. So again, in theory, it is in everyone’s best interests that they find a resolution to this matter. The ‘actual’ problem is that these engines are WAY TOO EXPENSIVE, and it isnt financially viable for companies like Cosworth/BMW et al to develop and produce these kind of engines, even with 12 months notice.

    1. @Gubstar Should Red Bull leave F1 altogether, one way to compensate for the loss of two teams and four cars on the grid would be for some teams to have three instead of two to get the figure back up to 20, although whether any team would be willing towards an extra race car is another matter.

      1. @gubstar Fair comment. And yeah not just too expensive, but too complex, and too integral to making a chassis work. This hybrid formula has proved that one needs to be a works factory team in order to win the titles. In 2014 there were only two works teams and only one team has nailed it the whole time. Now there’s also Renault as a works team, also showing that even being a works team is no guarantee just as Ferrari has shown us. This is why Brawn has spoken of the next pu change being one that heads them back to more of a plug and play formula like it was for so many years, actually being able to take someone’s good pu and marry it to your good chassis, and you’re potentially in with a shout.

    2. Didn’t they just sign up for next 5 years?

      1. Yes, but with the option to quit at any time.

      2. They can still get out with enough notice.

      3. @maninhat Yes, but this doesn’t mean they couldn’t leave prematurely should they wish to do so.

      4. Many people still think that the teams signed an agreement locking them into the sport for the next 5 years. Not even close. What they actually all agreed to was a set of regulations for the next 5 years. One part of these regulations is a clause stating that any team can chose to leave F1 if they give notice by March of a given year. In practice, I think this means that all the teams are currently locked in for 2021, but any one of them could opt out for 2022 and beyond by giving their notice by the end of March 2021.

    3. Yeah F1 and all the remaining teams would just pack up and go home rather than….. for example changing the regs to permit a lower number of entries……
      They’d never think of that would they?

  14. Good luck with that. I still wouldn’t put it entirely past Red Bull leaving F1 altogether, which would mean two fewer teams in 2022 unless two separate third-parties would be willing to take over the respective teams.

  15. So it’s either this proposed engine freeze or Renault then. I agree with those above who say Ferrari (if not others) will not agree to this. Certainly Ferrari may improve their pu for next year (they have to) prior to it being theoretically frozen, but yeah…can’t see it.

    I can understand RBR trying this on as it would at least keep them closer to being a works team, but I can’t see it happening. But hey, if you don’t ask you certainly don’t get a yes answer, or any answer for that matter.

  16. Wasn’t an engine freeze coming for the end of 2022 anyway? I thought I read that somewhere.

    So the request is for 1 year earlier

  17. How are Ferrari going to agree to this given the current troubles? What planet are they on.
    This is a lesson in not burning your bridges with people you have previously worked with. What stupidity.

    1. Ferrari said they will have an all new engine in 2021.

      1. Which they most likely will need to keep fine tuning

  18. I don’t actually think an engine freeze is necessary, if Red Bull want to continue with these engines. With budget caps coming in it just means Red Bull can spend their allocated resources on other things. Other teams can choose to spend some of their money on developing their engines but will have less to spend elsewhere. So it will balance itself out, in the end.

    1. Even RB doesn’t have the money to compete with Mercedes, Renault or Ferrari in engine development. Also it would take them years to build the team…

      1. If I am not mistaken, it does happen, Power Unit (PU) development costs are covered by the PU supplier, and are not included in the team’s operating budget cap.
        The charge to supply engines to teams is limited to around $14 or $15 million a year, it was 12 million BP a couple of years ago. With testing, crash replacement and other mishaps, assume something like $20 million a year. Brexit may have even knocked some off it too.
        The price the teams pay for PU supply is trivial compared to the development costs. This is F1, develop or … languish at the back of the grid, then you die.
        Perfectly logical that Red Bull would float the freeze idea as it could provide an opportunity to use frozen Honda PUs.
        The kicker is reliability. Usually the freeze is on performance but reliability development continues. If a reliability mod frees up a couple of kW, great. Its F1 after all.

  19. Red Bull might be better off trying to convince Honda to let HPD to take on the F1 engine program after 2021, largely if not totally funded by Red Bull/Alpha Tauri.

    1. That would be a great outcome if it happened.

    2. Then come 2026 Honda can simply return to a cheaper engine format.

  20. And I want World piece and a salted caramel and pecan chocolate cake

    1. *peace

      [I would gladly return as a subscriber if they decide to fix the damn commenting system]

  21. MB and Ferrari have no reason to support this. They would be more likely to let RBR run some old Judd V-10s with a weight reduction for their chassis and unlimited fuel and revs.

    In the old days, teams ran year-old engine designs all the time. If RBR can borrow the staff and equipment to maintain and build the PUs, then they should do that, if they want to race. They are the second best package right now by a long ways. Back in the Renault days they were winning with an engine that didn’t have the most power.

  22. Red bull are worse then Ferrari

  23. I never understand the vitriol directed at Red Bull. They’ve been one of the best things about the sport for the last 15 years.

    It will be a sad day when they leave it. That day might be sooner than some think.

    1. @David Bondo
      I agree but as someone else has said this is classic RBR. If I was RBR I’d just say we cant take on this complexity and we will pull our 4 cars till new simpler engine regs come in. As there is a contract for 20 cars to race they have F1 by the short and curlies. This experiment with hybrids has been a failure for racing and for f1. Its been great for manufacturers and for pseudo green credentials as well as people who watch f1 for tech first. Little else. Like cirque de soleil, these hybrids are difficult to do and boring.

    2. It is simple for me David Bondo, @tonymanse I enjoyed their party people marketing when entering, the new more clearly marketing but also open approach to PR as well as being a serious racing team. But as soon as they felt they were fighting for real prizes, they kept klinging onto that being fun, but also showing the cracks in that facade, complaining of KERS, engine, DDD at almost every opportunity, while talking of how if only it was aero they clearly would be winning as is their right.

      And they still lean that way, even though they are having to start every season with aero that holds them back. On track they are great, we and Verstappen deservevto see them be good and I want them to be successful, but they mostly just annoy me off track.

      Are Ferrari better? Lol no, but that is no question. Renault only now seemingly getting anywhere but having talked bigger than acting it so for years, yes sure, but improving, just like McLaren! Mercedes a bit tad fake humility while relentlessly winning? Maybe, but their lack of toxic comments works a lot better for me, allowing me to focus on the racing.

  24. Remember when F1 used to be about a technical development race with teams & engine manufacturer’s free to innovate.

    We’d have never got the DFV, 1400Bhp Turbo’s, Ground effects, the fan car, 6 wheels, semi automatic gearboxes, active suspension or any of the other clever, exciting & interesting technical innovations under the Indycar+ formula the ‘show/entertainment’ generation are forcing into this once great sport.

    The last engine freeze with the V8’s after 2007 made that engine formula the most boring, uninteresting & uneventful formula in F1’s history. Done in the name of equality which is a word that doesn’t belong in F1. If your not good enough you don’t deserve to have the others pegged back, You should improve & if you can’t then tough luck.

    1. Its always been a formula, never carte blanche. Trouble is its now a set menu with only one main course and no dessert

    2. Turbo HP inflation. By 2030 they will be up to 2000Bhp. I miss those days of more open rules though.

      1. @darryn that is one of the long standing jokes about the turbo engines of the 1980s – that even though they stopped building them in the late 1980s, they mysteriously seem to get more powerful over time…

        1. Yeh, people say 1400hp.. That t was one engine maker for 1 lap then it expoded. They were actually about 500hp only in races. When they were replaced by 3.5l normally aspirated, they only made about 650hp max and were faster than the turbos.

          1. kpcart, it’s rather more complex than that, as it is a period that covers a number of years, multiple different manufacturers and a number of rather different regulation sets within that period (particularly on fuel and boost pressures).

            It is true that the figures thrown around are often exaggerated, particularly in the case of the BMW M12 engine – not helped by Rosche himself being economical with the truth to build up his reputation as an engine tuner – but the exact performance in race trim itself was also variable as it depended on the fuel strategies that the teams and drivers chose to adopt in those races, as well as how the engine performance was optimised over those years.

    3. F1 in 2010 was the best season i have ever watched, with engine freeze.

  25. Engine freeze would be good, only if with a slight element of BoP to edge back Mercedes power advantage a little bit.

    I can not deal with another 5-6 years of Mercedes domination… I will switch off.

  26. The fact that a team even asks this shows how utterly broken the formula is.

    It is time to basically engineer a modern “constructor versus garagiste” type solution.

    Set a deadline e.g. 2022, 2023. Tell Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Renault that they can, if they so wish, still run their own engines from then onwards. But only in their 2 manufacturer team cars. They cannot supply any other teams, no matter how convoluted the partnership status between them, and their previous designs – not their very latest – must be lodged in full technical detail with the FIA.

    Everyone who is not manufacturing their own engine will then take a standard engine designed by the sport with the knowledge of what the OEMs have been doing recently. That so many teams will need or want it will make it economically viable for the sport to build it internally. Williams, McLaren, Red Bull etc. can all take the standard engine.

    If it’s not competitive enough BoP it to a decent level, or alternatively factor the cost of manufacturing an engine versus taking the spec engine into the budget cap to adjust appropriately. But stop the nonsense of a small cabal of OEMs essentially holding the sport hostage because they control the key element of the current cars.

    The politics of the sport will improve, because bloc voting based on engine partnerships will no longer be the same issue. The competitiveness of the sport will improve, because direct rivals to teams will no longer be frustrated by an OEM finding no good reason to supply a threat, and by most teams using the same engine, and by not having to worry about engines freeing them up to focus on their chassis. And new teams will find it easier to come into the sport, indeed may be more desirable to have if more teams on the spec engine makes it more viable and provides more data to compete with the OEMs.

    Let’s get it done, because to me it’s that or screw it all and go fully spec because I’m sick to death of the engine situation. The hybrid era may be technically impressive but it has been an unmitigated disaster in every other respect.

  27. Does this bring AVL GmbH closer to the picture?

    1. Never heard of AVL, but reading their wiki.
      Noting they’re Austrian, valid point. Thanks

      1. @RacingLines was first to mention them already last week.

  28. A simple question from someone with a limited understanding of F1 engineering. There are various forms of hybrid engines everywhere these days in road cars. Surely it would be possible for the great minds of F1 to set an engine specification for teams that utilised this current, widely available technology but at a sensible price? Perhaps with a limited reduction in HP?

    I mean I am not sure the unprecedented power from the current specification of engines is helping the racing really and it seems to be ruinously expensive. Then there is no real need for F1 cars to keep getting faster and faster. They will outgrow the circuits one day.

  29. Still don’t understand the ploy. Freeze and then Renault? Why not Renault right away?

    What are they waiting for? There are surely no other options on the horizon?

  30. This scenario (or something close to it) is more possible than folks realize.

    The parent corporations of the engine manufacturers may not mind minimizing their development of the ICE. Could make it easy to compromise a deal that allows them to use the Honda ICE, and upgrade the electronic bits.

    Not saying it’s likely, but it’s not completely bonkers, either.

  31. Great. As much as I marvel at these amazing engines, I would love to see an engine frezze.

    Put them on a dyno, equal performance, then only allow reliability upgrades.

    Engines should be a playground of different tech, not all the same at 200 million per year development cost.

    Cosworth could do the same teams spend now for 10th the price and giving everyone equal speed.

  32. FO Redbull.

    Everyone hates you cos you don’t even have your own engine and dare to think you are in the same level as Ferrari, Merc and Renault.

    Use your big mouths to run the car in 2022.

  33. Would Red Bull like a 100 point start as well?

  34. F1 is starting to feel like WEC around 2015.

  35. How about Freeze everything now because mercedes want to continue to conquer? I guess such logic only redbull will understand

  36. Nik (@nickelodeon81)
    16th October 2020, 18:49

    Here’s a suggestion for RedBull. Stick your tail firmly between your legs and go crawling back to Renault. When Vettel was spinning off 4 WDCs with the French engine manufacturer you soaked up all the glory, until you stopped winning and then you started blaming the literal driving force behind those glorious years. Who knows, Verstappen In a RedBull powered by a half decent engine might actually be fruitful….if Marko and Horner can reign in thier ego.

  37. What happens if AT takes the Ferrari though? Three manufacturers with three teams.

  38. To be honest an engine freeze sounds like a good idea. I doubt Ferrari will accept it though. Unless they get a pardon to develop their engine until it’s on par with Mercedes.

  39. Fat chance as an engine freeze will prevent the introduction of more synthetic fuel, what the FIA wants.

    In 2022 the FIA wants to use 20% synthetic fuel and in 2023 100% synthetic fuel, which needs new cylinder heads. So an engine freeze is not possible.

    I rather would like the introduction of new engine rules in 2023 in stead of 2026 (what Ferrari wants), so Honda can develop the engine next year for 2022 and RBR keeps using them and get a new manufacturer to enter F1 in 2023 with the new rules.

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