Red Bull face two-week wait for crucial F1 engine freeze decision

2021 F1 season

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Red Bull will have to wait at least another two weeks for a decision on future power unit rules which has vital implications for their 2022 campaign.

The team is pushing for a freeze engine specification to come into effect from the 2022 F1 season. This would allow Red Bull and AlphaTauri to continue using their Honda-developed power units after the Japanese manufacturer leaves Formula 1 at the end of this season.

The proposal has received a mixed response among Red Bull’s rivals. It was expected to go to a e-vote at a meeting yesterday, but RaceFans understands this has not taken place.

“The goodwill that existed on Friday for a vote no longer existed on Monday,” said a source at the team.

Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn confirmed to RaceFans the matter is “still under discussion”. The vote is now expected to take place at a meeting of the Formula 1 Commission on February 11th.

A freeze was previously proposed in May last year by FIA president Jean Todt but was opposed by some teams, including Red Bull, who feared at the time Honda would not remain in Formula 1 if they were unable to develop their power units. Honda announced in October the 2021 season will be its last.

The reluctance of other teams to back a freeze is rooted in uncertainty over the future direction of F1’s power unit rules. Plans for the next engine formula, and the timing of its introduction, are yet to be agreed, and teams are unwilling to sign up to an open-ended freeze of the current power units.

A meeting of F1 team principals is due to take place next week, but this will focus on matters other than the future engine rules.

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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...
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...

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43 comments on “Red Bull face two-week wait for crucial F1 engine freeze decision”

  1. Tell us this RedBull….you are in a quandary engine wise.

    What is Plan B ??

    1. They lose Verstappen and Honda, I wonder if there is a plan B for that scenario. More like a plan X, exit.

      1. With the budget caps no one will leave, especially not Red Bull. Their return on investment is so huge now it’s a no brainer.

  2. Forced to take Renault engines

    1. @falken They don’t have to take them if they don’t want to. Only Renault would be required to give them a PU, but the opposite is a different matter.

  3. Next question is are there any engine builder companies that could step forward to supply RedBull ?? Like a strong F2 EBC that might be able to ramp up to F1 requirements ?? Is it likely that one current F1 engine supplier could handle RB coming into their fold ??
    Could RedBull be close to getting screwed over by their own doing ??
    How can they escape their problems if nothing with Honda continues ??

    1. They will be offered Renault PUs, it’s in the rules all teams signed up to

      1. @the-edge @bascb @anon
        Yes, required to give a PU by the rules if asked, but whether Red Bull would accept the offer is another matter, i.e., they wouldn’t have to take the Renault PU if they don’t want to.

        1. Technically correct, @jerejj.
          But tell me, do you really think they’ll stay with a 2021 Honda PU’s if the 2022+ Renault is proven to be more powerful?

          I don’t think that RBR cares at all what happened before between RBR and Renault (or what fans write), they just want the best package.
          And to be honest, when I think of RBR and Renault I immediately think of the successes they had rather than the struggles later on.

        2. Ahm, well, @jerejj, that migth be technically correct, as @coldfly mentions, but it would be a pretty strange and hypotethical situation.

          Renault will be aksed by the FIA to supply engines, according to these rules, if and when Red Bull informs the FIA that they need help securing an engine deal since Honda quit and they currently have no replacement lined up. So to then refuse to take this engines, would be completely bonkers.

          If Red Bull does want to continue with the Honda powerunit the situation won’t even arise, since they would not NEED to ask the FIA to find them a replacement since they would have an engine deal in place.

          Let me repeat: EITHER Red Bull agrees to further use the Honda powerunit (which might be sub optimal if they would need to do development themselves or fall back in the order in case there is no development freeze. And they need Honda to actually agree), OR they do not have an engine deal in place and in that case there is an option to fall back on the rules system and get the FIA to ask Renault to supply, which Renault is willing to do (as they confirmed).

    2. F1 made sure they have a way to solve this: The suppliers of engines are all signed up to being obliged to supply an engine if needed (i.e. a team informs the FIA they have this problem). The supplier who has the least customers must pick up the supply, which would be Renault.

    3. STEVENHOLMES, as others have pointed out, with regards to existing engine suppliers, Renault would be obliged to supply engines to Red Bull, with Renault already confirming that they would honour that requirement if asked to.

      With regards to your query about whether a Formula 2 engine supplier could ramp up an engine to Formula 1 specs – that’s not going to happen. Mechachrome currently has the monopoly supply for Formula 2 and the main Formula 3 championship, with the Formula 2 engine being a turbocharged derivative of the V364 normally aspirated engine that was developed for Formula 3 (a slightly modified version of the Formula 2 turbocharged engine was also in use in the World Endurance Championship in the 2018-2019 season too).

      Now, firstly the turbocharged V364 used in the Formula 2 series isn’t really a great base for Formula 1 – asides from the obvious issue that the capacity is too great (3.4 litres), it’s also got problems with the wrong bank angle (95 degrees), the wrong bore to stroke ratio and so forth (so simply scaling down the design wouldn’t work). In Formula 2 guise, there have been complaints from the teams about problems with the V364 too, both in terms of reliability and inconsistent power output.

      There is also the issue that Mechachrome is also heavily involved in Renault’s engine programme, being an R&D partner and also producing components for Renault. Building an engine would place them into direct conflict with one of their major customers – so, from a practical point of view, that is realistically not going to happen.

      As for other independents – to be honest, the number of independent engine manufacturers has dried up quite a lot in recent years, mainly because there are a declining number of series for them to sell their engines to. The main ones that come to mind right now are Mechachrome, Gibson, AER and Cosworth – however, out of those four, Cosworth seems to be moving away from engine manufacturing into the automotive electronics sector instead (in fact, I am struggling to think of the last bespoke racing engine that Cosworth fully designed themselves).

      As for the remaining three, Gibson is mainly a monopoly supplier for the LMP2 field and occasional supplier for the LMP1 field, although they don’t currently produce any turbocharged engine (the GL458 used in the LMP1 class is basically an LMP2 spec GL428 that has been scaled up from 4.2L to 4.5L).

      AER’s most prominent involvement has been in sportscar racing too, mostly in the WEC and IMSA, although they also produce engines for the Indy Lights series. They seem to have designed valvetrains that would be compatible for use in F1, but it’s a long stretch from there to get into F1. As for Mechachrome, as mentioned earlier, they are already involved through Renault, so there is no sense in directly competing against one of your own customers.

      1. Good information there. Thank you

      2. Superb Anon !!

        Your knowledge is valued by many of us
        And I appreciate the effort of the response

      3. Brilliant answer ‘Anon’, thank you

  4. I really wonder what is going to happen. Why would Red Bull want to stay in F1 without a capable engine? Let’s face it, all customer teams are doomed to be second at best.

    1. Last time I watched F1 the Renault PU was equal to Hondas, this is about pride, no power

      1. You can see power? Wow…..

        1. “I see Pride! I see power! I see a bad a## mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!” (Cool Running’s reference). The question is who is the bad a## mother, Red Bull, Renault or both?

          1. I just keep thinking about Helmet Marko psyching up Christian Horner in the bathroom mirror. Then Christian storming up to Cyril Abitbeboul and saying “you better give is an engine or else!” and Cyril responding with “or else what… come on Red Bull say something…”

    2. Maybe, but also about integrating engine and chassis.

    3. According to the rules the engines supplied to the customers have to be exactly the same specification as those used by the manufacturers team. So theoretically it is all down to the chassis and the aero. Red Bull beat Renault when they were a customer team so I don’t see why they can’t do it again. They do make a pretty good car. A while ago Merecedes refused to supply Red Bull with engines. I think they were afraid of getting beaten by a customer.

      1. Patrick, in the past at least, the teams were permitted to vary the specification slightly if they needed to make an adjustment to meet the requirements of a fuel or lubricant supplier for their customer, as that could have an impact on the design of the engine.

        That was actually a point of contention between Renault and Red Bull when Renault were supplying Red Bull with engines, as Red Bull used a different fuel supplier to Renault. Renault originally formed a partnership with Total to be their fuel supplier, whilst Red Bull signed a deal with ExxonMobile, and there were slight differences in the properties of the fuel and oil that both teams used.

        As Renault originally mapped their engines to operate on their own fuel mixtures, they then had to remap the engines to provide more optimal performance for Red Bull’s fuel mixtures. However, an argument is then reported as breaking out between Red Bull and Renault over who would pay for the cost of the additional dyno testing runs to remap the engines, with Red Bull claiming that Renault should foot the bill as the supplier of the engines, whilst Renault argued that Red Bull should be footing the bill as well.

        I believe that there was also an issue early on in the lifespan of the new engines where there were a few issues again with Red Bull’s engines. In that case, there were reports that one of the additives in the fuel mixture that they were using turned out to be reacting with, and slowly damaging, some of the seals in the fuel flow monitoring systems, requiring a change in the seal material to prevent future issues.

  5. I hope this doesn’t go through. Red Bull abuses their supplier for years and then wonders why nobody wants to supply them. They make great villains, but would rather see them out of F1.

    1. Maybe if the one-eyed guy had a patch over it. Then I would want them to stay.

      1. Perhaps the could incorporate it with his mask.

  6. I don’t want to think too much in to the future but is Red Bull having an defa-vu effect. At the start of 2018 they had two winning drivers. 2019 they were in trouble of finding a capable driver in the seat that Ricciardo left. We all know how that ended. Now in 2021 they are losing again a winning element and I’m afraid how they will cope Hondas withdrawal in 2022. It is a lot easier to find a winning driver than a working engine.

    1. Redbull won as many races with Renault as they did with Honda

      1. Yes they did. Fans seem to have forgotten that fact. Renault engines came along well last season and showed a good improvement. They have a new engine for this year and I doubt that it will be worse than last year. A couple of relatively small reliability issues maybe. I think that Red Bull are embarrassed to go back to Renault hence their recent threats to quit. I for one hope that the engine freeze is not approved. F1 is about cutting edge technology and continual improvement and a freeze of any kind doesn’t fit with that philosophy IMO

        1. I doubt RBR would be embarrassed to partner up with Renault again.
          Why would they, or why would anybody even care?

          They were successful together in the past, and if Renault is the best PU then they’ll happily go back.

        2. Renault have gained a lot in their engine development but I think Honda was making more constant progress. For my point of view it is a step backwards but who knows how close to Merc they will be after a year?

      2. I wonder if there are more metrics to this than just the number of races you win with an engine.

  7. I just don’t see how Ferrari and Ferrari engined teams would agree. They would have to be sure they have an awesome, but untested, engine for next year.

    Merc is fine with it, of course.

    Renault, maybe they should say no. They can crippled Red Bull and maybe gain a customer at the same time.

    1. There more to this than meets the eye

      Ferrari teams want a balance of performance clause introduced incase they still have a power deficit when the freeze happens

      Redbull & AT happy to go along with this

      Merc teams & Renault are happy for freeze as long as there is no balance of performance

      That’s 5 teams in each camp

  8. If the other teams were to be reasonable and “sporting” in this situation, they’d allow Red Bull and Alpha Tauri to freeze engine development for an additional year. Even if the teams look at their own situation in isolation, freezing engines means there’s one major area of car performance that remains static, and they could divert resources towards 2023 engine development. That’s where the goodwill comes in.

    That said, competition in F1 is just as fierce off the track. Surely the other teams would oppose freezing development, simply because its such a obvious and significant way to hamstring RB & AT. Allowing the freeze means other teams would largely accept current levels of RB/AT competitiveness, whereas opposing the freeze means there’s opportunity for RB/AT to go backwards. The only possible exception would be Ferrari powered teams (as has been stated above) who feel they are under-performing relative to where they feel they should be.

    1. The freeze means that they would have to also bring forward adjustments to allow syntethic fuels. And it means that to get Ferrari on board they would have to do some “balance of performance” to get them back up into the pack though @tomcat173.

      That second issue is one that neither Mercedes nor Renault are too keen about.

  9. Hopefully this freeze will be stopped in its tracks. RB and AT will not withdraw from F1. Their losses would run into the tens of millions if they did and Mateschitz is no slouch when it comes to money matters. I very much doubt that he’d pull the pin. IMO Horner and his boss are trying it on [ again ] and are simply bluffing. Renault have already acknowledged that they will step up to the plate if required so what’s all the RB beef? Cyril is no longer there so that little argument can’t be employed.

  10. When Ferrari and Red Bull were “dominating” to nothing like the degree that Mercedes have completely dominated the sport, people weren’t so accepting of them winning races and championships.

    If RBR doesn’t get the engine freeze they should just pull AT out of the sport and just keep RBR in the sport as a low budget team for marketing purposes. There would be no point in having a customer Renault engine.

    Just let Mercedes have the series and let it slide into irrelevance.

    1. Both RB & AT teams are worth hundreds of Millions each, probably over a billion between them

      No one is pulling anything, worst case scenario is the teams would be sold no new investors, I’m sure the Mazapin’s would be interested in 1 or the other and Panthera would snap up one too

      Dietrich Mateschitz is a business man, not a fool

      1. It’s not worth much without Newey or a works engine.

        1. $200M for each is the bare minimum, but expect it to be a lot more for RBR.

          But of course that could be ‘not worth much’ to you :P

          1. The $200 million Figure is the amount a new (11th or more) team would have to pay as a one-off entry fee. This was done to compensate teams for the evaluation of prize-money and also to add value to the current teams

            McLaren recently sold a chunk of their team, this is what was said about it at the time…

            “MSP Sports Capital will invest £185m into McLaren Racing (F1 and IndyCar), acquiring an initial 15% stake that will increase to 33% by the end of 2022, in a deal that values the team at £560m.”

            I don’t know the value of RB or AT, but I suspect One would be less than this and the other equal or more

            As for the engine supply, yes RB do have a supplier, it is Renault as pointed about above, they are obliged to supply the PU if required

            As for Newey, you are correct he does add value but I suspect RB with their assets & the 100’s of employees who are an established functioning team at the top of their game would be just as valuable with or without him

  11. Not a fan of all these development freezes, Wind tunnel caps etc..

    F1 used to be about continual development with teams pushing the boundaries of what was possible & the engine suppliers doing the same. Under these Indycar+ rules we have now we would have never got many of the interesting & exciting developments the sport has given us over the years that helped grow interest among fans fascinated by those developments, The performance they brought & exciting spectacle that created.

    Same with other categories like WEC, WRC, IMSA & Indycar. The sport always becomes more popular when you have more development allowed that allows for big performance gains & competition between various manufacturer’s and/or suppliers. Indycar lost it’s fanbase when it became a boring spec series, WRC declined after Group B & WEC/IMSA declined after the Group C era & I don’t think any have got back to been as popular as they were because they have never been allowed to be as open or exciting as they were when you had more freedom to develop things that helped create excitement & gave you many talking points over a season.

    F1 is only going to decline further if they go down this Indycar+ route.

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