Red Bull factory, Milton Keynes, 2021

First details of Red Bull’s new operation to run ex-Honda engines – and aim for works status in 2025

2021 F1 season

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Although Thursday’s Formula 1 Commission meeting – the first under new president and CEO Stefano Domenicali and the first under the 2021-2025 Concorde Agreement – voted unanimously to freeze power units for three years from 2022 until the end of 2024, the finer points about the timing and technicalities of the freeze have yet to emerge.

The freeze had been requested by Red Bull Racing and its sister team AlphaTauri, whose engine partner Honda will leave the sport at the end of this season. As outlined here previously the teams faced two options: persuade Honda to cede its intellectual property rights to Red Bull to enable them to operate their own power unit programme, or acquire customer engines from an existing team, likely Renault, although Ferrari was also mentioned.

However, the former option would only be viable should F1 chiefs impose an engine freeze through to the switchover date to a new sustainable and cheaper engine formula, which has been brought forward a year to 2025 following today’s vote. Red Bull had argued that a freeze was vital to enable them to continue using Honda hardware as they lacked full engine development capabilities.

Following an interview conducted by associate F1 media outlet Motorsport Magazin with Red Bull F1 adviser Dr Helmut Marko, RaceFans can disclose that Red Bull executives plan to register a new company, which will formally acquire Honda’s F1 engine programme and support the energy drink company’s two F1 teams from Milton Keynes.

Red Bull will keep using their Honda power units
“That entity will be Red Bull Powertrains,” Marko told the German publication. “Building Eight, one of our existing buildings, is being adapted into an engine shop. Everything is happening, now it’s starting.”

Although Honda currently runs its F1 operation from a base in Milton Keynes, Marko explained this is geared towards hybrid drive technologies rather than Honda’s internal combustion engines, which are developed and serviced by its Research and Development facility in Sakura, Japan.

Thus, Red Bull will establish its own support operation on the Red Bull Technology Campus to optimise and service the engines during the three-year period. Austrian specialist powertrain company AVL, which has worked closely with Red Bull on various projects, has been contracted to support the programme and supply the necessary hardware.

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“The excavators can now start rolling,” said Marko.

He believes the in-house programme will cost the same or slightly more than a customer deal over the three-year period. “We do some maths and calculations about the costs,” he said, “It is a one-time investment in the building and, above all, in test benches.

Red Bull TAG Heuer branding, 2016
TAG Heuer previously branded Red Bull’s Renault engines
“But the operating costs will not be higher than if we had bought an engine elsewhere. It may cost more, but not significantly so.”

During the final seasons of Red Bull’s partnership with Renault the watch company TAG Heuer held the naming rights to the power unit and had its brand emblazoned across the engine cover, which Marko hopes could be a precedent.

“Of course, [the sponsor] could not be another car manufacturer, but it could be some other interested company.”

The former F1 driver believes the engine programme will provide significant performance benefits by being tailored specifically for the Red Bull and AlphaTauri chassis – which have both draw common components, as permitted by the regulations, from Red Bull Technology.

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“We will be supplying an engine that is coordinated with the chassis people, which will be optimised on both sides,” he said. “If we had got an engine from Renault, for example, we would be forced to [compromise] our chassis, radiator and other components around that design.”

Could Porsche – last seen in F1 30 years ago – return?
Red Bull will continue to receive full Honda support in 2021. The Japanese manufacturer has also pledged to develop their power unit through to the end of their tenure despite no updates being permitted during the current season. Thus Red Bull hopes to go into the homologation period in early 2022 – final details still to be formalised by the FIA – with an engine that has been fully developed.

“[This freeze] is good news not only for us, but for the whole of Formula 1 in general,” believes Marko. “It reduces costs considerably.”

He also told Motorsport-Magazin that Red Bull is hopeful of acquiring full works status from 2025 by enticing another manufacturer into the sport. According to sources an entry by Porsche was widely discussed during today’s commission meeting.

The German company has attended a number of engine working group sessions recently, and parent company VW has historically enjoyed close motorsport links with Red Bull.

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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...

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50 comments on “First details of Red Bull’s new operation to run ex-Honda engines – and aim for works status in 2025”

  1. He believes the in-house programme will cost the same or slightly more than a customer deal over the three-year period.

    Also something else that needs to be taken into consideration: a $145m budget cap has been instated since the beginning of 2021. Prior to that, Red Bull was spending well over $300m per year on chassis development.

    1. I tend to think the budget cap is for the F1 teams, not the P.U manufacturers. Somebody correct me if am wrong.

      1. You are correct @lems

        My logic is that the money RBR will save from the budget cap could be used on their in-house engine programme (hypothetical).

        1. I think that’s fair to say, bottom line shouldn’t make a huge difference for Red Bull in the short term.

          In the long term if they move to full manufacturing of their own engine I’d expect their combined budget to be closer to the Mercedes and Ferrari combined budgets and be closer to 350/400, but that’s not going to be a thing until at least 2023 when they decide on what the new engine formula will be.

        2. Yes, Redbull can divert some of that money to maintain the P.Us @kingshark

    2. Engine costs (including personnel to develop and maintain the engines) are not part of the budget cap.

  2. My hope was for Mugen to support the project, but I’m equally okay with ALV. Also a good company for this purpose.
    More so, I’m happy that even though Honda will officially pull out, the PUs made by Honda will remain in use.

      1. o do not think AVL can do this.. they already serve Mercedes.

        1. @erikje They serve more than a single racing team, so irrelevant.

          1. By racing teams, I mean non-F1 teams too.

  3. Logically one would say Red Bull will seek to acquire AVL somewhere in the years leading up to 2025 if the partnership is satisfactory to them and move to develop their own PSU from then on. Either way, the simple fact that they’re not beholden to third party supplies with no influence on development, design, etc. is great news for Formula 1. I was dreading having them return to being a customer team, as that is simply not sustainable for a continued championship challenger, though maybe with the freeze this will not be a problem for the next few years (as designers can now design to that exact spec early on).

    Either way, I’m really happy they were able to make this happen. I assume the 2022 start of season freeze means Honda will commit to developing a final version after the season as well and leave Red Bull pretty well off.

    1. Mateschitz already owns a lot of AVL. But for now they work for Mercedes.
      And as far i know its not allowed to serve two different teams.

  4. Exciting time for the sport after what will the worst 8 years in the sport’s history.

    No matter what happens it can’t be any worse than what we’ve seen since 2014.

    1. @Dean Franklin Worst eight years, LOL. I couldn’t disagree more with you. For sure, the hybrid era has had cons, but so have the seasons before. None is perfect.

    2. I couldn’t agree more Dean.

      1. Really @dean franklin / @sjzelli ?
        I am sure if you sat and thought about it a bit more than just thumping buttons on your keyboard, you would agree, for example, that the 8 year period 1971 – 79, when 8 drivers were killed, was actually the “

        worst 8 years in the sport’s history

        G

        1. @unklegsif there were also marshals, spectators and other track side staff who were killed during that period, but are often forgotten about as well.

          To list some of the higher profile accidents, there were four killed at the 1975 Spanish GP (a spectator, a fireman and two photographers), two killed at the 1977 Japanese GP (a marshal and a photographer), the marshal van Vuuren at the 1977 South African GP. You could also note that there were drivers who were killed in testing accidents too, such as Revson (private test in Kyalami in 1974).

          As you note, the past 8 years have not seen multiple deaths of drivers, marshals and spectators – there really is no equivalence.

          1. I believe no one wants the return of that era where we had a great number of casualties, but he’s right that engine hybrid era + DRS made it for one of the worst racing in F1. Add to this the incredible reliability this cars have and the way cars are almost perfect now (check recent interview from KMag, he mentions these cars are easy to drive). Even the refuelling era looks exciting compared to this. What we need to keep is the safety level from 2020, but with race level from the early 80s. Let’s hope the new 2022 will help us.

          2. I know, and rightfully they should never be forgotten, but I only had 3minutes to cram in a bit of Wiki research while on my lunch ;)

            G

          3. @mmertens and where did the original poster specify that he was talking just about the racing? The original poster was trying to claim that everything about this era was, in their view, the worst thing ever – which, as is quite clearly demonstrated, not the case.

            That said, with regards to the racing – was the past really quite as good as we tell ourselves, or is there a certain amount of self-selection, in as much as we remember what we want to remember from the past and tend to forget about what we didn’t like at the time?

            You look back to that era and what people were saying at the time, and they were complaining that the effects of aerodynamics meant it was too difficult for cars to follow each other, that the sport was overly dominated by a small elite of teams that had too much power and an overly large share of the spoils – there were quite a few seasons with just two teams taking the majority of the spoils – and that the cost of competition was becoming extortionate, either pushing teams into bankruptcy or pushing several teams to the point where they were living a hand to mouth existence.

            You can add to that the complaints that the amount of infighting and politicking in the background was detrimental to the health of the sport, that there were too many races being held at venues to bank a large fee instead of being held at venues that people liked and that the sport had too many pay drivers entering who were being hired because of their sponsorship, rather than their talent. I think you would have to agree that a lot of those comments probably sound extremely familiar, don’t they?

            This site certainly stands as a record of that, with a number of posts from the early 2000s where the contemporary comments were “The race was OK, nothing really special”, about too many of the passes being made through refuelling strategy or that the drivers were “loathe to try to overtake because they’ll be kicking themselves if they make a mistake” and had the mentality that “it’s better to play it safe and get the points”.

            You could go to a forum like Ten Tenths or Autosport, copy complaints being made about F1 20 years ago and paste them into the threads now, and quite a few people here probably wouldn’t recognise that it was a 20 year old quote. To illustrate that point, those comments I’ve put up are comments that fans made during races in 2003 – that year is now retrospectively held up by some as apparently being a great year, but you’ll find that there were quite a few fans who felt that 2003 had more than its fair share of races that they found fairly dull at the time.

            Equally, you could go to one of those sites and see how, say, they debated a pay driver like Ralph Firman driving for Jordan. The comments being made about him – which ranged from the likes of “pay drivers like him don’t deserve to be in F1” through to those saying “he’s not that bad and has shown flashes of promise” could be transplanted now into the comments section of a story about Lance Stroll, and so long as you substituted the name of “Firman” for “Stroll”, you’d be hard pushed to notice the difference.

            You’d also find a lot of reminiscing about “the good old days” in those threads too, and disparagement of what the sport was like at the time those posts were written. There’s one on the Ten Tenths forum from 2003 where, following a documentary about what the sport was like a decade earlier, they were disparaging the 2003 season and commenting about how much more competitive the grid was back in 1993, about how much more exciting the races were in 1993 compared to 2003, about how the engines were so much better back then, how the cars looked and sounded so much better a decade earlier.

            In the same way that so many here might hold up the 2000s as a better era, the fans then made the same complaints they do now and complained about how the sport had degenerated compared to what it was like 10-20 years earlier from then. The one thing that will strike you when you look at the past is that the exact names might change, but the nature of the complaints being made then would sound remarkably similar to a modern audience.

  5. Forgive me if this is a daft question, but in a very literal way, what are Red Bull taking on from Honda? Say a cylinder block, is it going to be the exact same cylinder block? You polish it over and over for three years? What happens when you find a fracture in a cylinder? What about the batteries? They can’t be brought up to their ‘fresh off the shelf’ standard, I could go on and on.

    Are Honda going to give them a box of spare parts and say ‘get on with it’? I don’t really know what Red Bull are taking on here.

    1. They’re taking over the “Intellectual Property” which means they get full control over the design and can produce however many they want of it, they’ll own it and can make whatever changes they want to it.

      Except they can’t do that because the engine freeze means they’re not allowed.

      Think of it as if I were to buy the “IP” of the VW Golf. I would then be allowed to produce the “Aiii” Golf myself, make any changes to it and nobody else but me would be allowed to produce new Golf’s, including VW, as I would own it.

      1. @aiii thanks, so does that mean that when a battery needs replaced Red Bull have the facilities to make a new one themselves? Or essentially, though Red Bull can legally make a VW Golf, do they have the infrastructure to do so?

        1. Yes, that’s essentially what Marko through @dieterrencken is saying in the article here:

          ““That entity will be Red Bull Powertrains,” Marko told the German publication. “Building Eight, one of our existing buildings, is being adapted into an engine shop. Everything is happening, now it’s starting.”
          Although Honda currently runs its F1 operation from a base in Milton Keynes, Marko explained this is geared towards hybrid drive technologies rather than Honda’s internal combustion engines, which are developed and serviced by its Research and Development facility in Sakura, Japan.

          Thus, Red Bull will establish its own support operation on the Red Bull Technology Campus to optimise and service the engines during the three-year period. Austrian specialist powertrain company AVL, which has worked closely with Red Bull on various projects, has been contracted to support the programme and supply the necessary hardware.”

          “Red Bull Powertrains” in Building 8 will be producing the parts.

        2. As the old fable goes, ‘Sakura wasn’t built in a day, nor just off a roundabout outside Milton Keynes’

  6. Thanks for explaining @aiii I have to say i’m impressed if Red Bull pull this off, we talk about how complicated these engines are, and even if someone does give you the blueprints, you still have to build the thing.

    1. I believe they also hire some of Honda crew for this

  7. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    12th February 2021, 8:56

    So what’s next?

    Which team is going to go for a freeze to chassis design?

    1. We have a new engine formula one year earlier than previously planned. Freezing engines will enable manufacturers to focus on the new engine formula. Stop acting like this is a bad thing for F1.

      1. its a great thing, and the 5 considerations for those new engines ( from 2025) are :

        1. environmental sustainability
        2. fully sustainable fuel
        3. creating a powerful and emotive sound
        3.significant cost reduction
        5. attractiveness to new power unit manufacturers.

        Its Number 3 that gets me excited

        1. V12 NA hydrogen engines fit those criteria quite nicely.

      2. @paeschli

        Might be a bad thing for F1 to freeze engines when you have a woefully slow Honda exiting the sport once again, a consistently mediocre Renault PU on the grid and a bunch of cheats who got caught red handed and now have the slowest PU on the grid.

        Just seems like it’s advantage Mercedes with this engine freeze again.

        1. This statement would have made sense in 2015, 2016 at the latest.

        2. @todfod I don’t think you can claim Honda is ‘woefully slow’ anymore, lacking a bit sure, but woefully? Nah can’t agree, and we haven’t seen this year’s let alone what they will do after this year ahead of the freeze for 2022. Renault? Well they just have to keep their noses to the grindstone as will they all, and they have come a long way too, with time on their hands as well. Ferrari? I was to understand they have a big step coming for this year, and again with time yet to do more. Put another way the teams must be far more optimistic than you, or they wouldn’t have agree to a solely Mercedes advantage. I predict that come the freeze cut-off the pus will be closer to each other than they have ever been, and they’ll be in cars no longer held back in dirty air. I think it’s all good going forward. Certainly better than they don’t do the freeze, Honda is gone full stop, RBR has Renault pus again, and for sure there’s your Mercedes advantage. I give the only other team that seems capable of competing with Mercedes a lot better odds of continuing to do that with their in-house Hondas than with customer Renaults any day of the week.

  8. Thats massive, a garagiste turning manufacturer. Not sure how many times its been done but i remember, from my history books, that BRM had all sorts of problems developing their epic but doomed v 16 for its chassis. They are not everyones cup of tea, or fizzy sugar drink, but they have been very good for F1 overall.

    1. mmmm, I get your point in principle, but RB could never have been described a “garagiste”…..
      Stepped in and bought a Ford backed, factory team (admittedly JYS’s team started as an independent, tho)
      Fully backed by manufacturer engine supplier in their “glory days”, and again having stepped in with Honda recently

      G

  9. This is potentially very good news, not just for RBR but for the whole of F1 with the engine freeze. Coming as it does at a point where performance has more or less equalised between manufacturers. Except Ferrari.

    The last time there was a similar freeze in the last few years of the V8 era, we ended up with multiple teams all competitive to within a few tenths. We coud be in for a run of very close championships with, dare I say it, someone other than Mercedes or Hamilton taking the title.

    The only thing I would comment on here though is where Marko says that the engine freeze will reduce costs; presumably he means only for the manufacturers. I’d imagine the customer teams aren’t going to get a reduction in the supply contracts which are, to my knowledge, all at a fixed price for a yearly service. So potentially not really of any benefit to independent teams, whereas perhaps very useful to manufacturers who will be able to put more money into the chassis side.

    1. @mazdachris

      The customer teams might be able to negotiate a discount if the price goes down for the manufacturers. There is no reason why the price has to stay the same, between years.

  10. This is really bad news for Renault. If they are not competitive by 2024, they’ll pull the plug on their F1 programme (again).

  11. Weren’t an engine freeze in the V8 era? I remember fondly that you were not allowed to make performance updates, but you could develop reliability
    Of course some reliability updates came with performance gains, how unfortunate accidents…

  12. I hope the engines will be named “Wings” ! ;)

  13. I’m amazed Red Bull got this through. Massive advantages for them as they point out. Maybe other teams are betting on them not being able to fully manufacture reliable bullet-proof engines in just a year? Seems like a slam dunk for them otherwise.

    McLaren would have to be pretty frustrated. Not only getting disadvantaged with a lack of development tokens for this year switching to Mercedes, but now when they do get to work their car around the engine it will probably have lost its advantage compared to their competitors assuming there’s a balance of performance.

    1. @skipgamer Well technically Red Bull didn’t get this through. They brought the issue up starting last year after Honda’s exit announcement, and it was all of F1 and the FIA that have ‘got this through.’

      Just to be clear because of your wording, of course we have known since 2014 that it is a massive advantage to be a factory works team in order to have any hope of marrying these complex pus to chassis, and being win capable. So yes it is a massive advantage for RBR compared to if they had had to go back to being a customer of Renault’s thats for sure. But just wanted to point that out in case you were trying to claim they now have a massive advantage over the rest of the teams. Really, everyone is still playing catch up to Mercedes.

      1. I thought there would be a balance of performance. That there’s not, indeed makes my comment mute.

        1. @skipgamer Yeah I thought that in one article it was implied that they just hadn’t settled on a method of b.o.p. but then now it’s sounding like there won’t be any? Either way I’m the type to generally accept, as they’re the experts, that if they don’t need bop then that means they will all have agreed that they’re close enough to each other’s numbers, or else someone would protest. And that’s great for F1. If they do need it and it is agreed to have it then so be it, it will have been agreed that was the better way. I have this feeling they all believe that through this season and leading up to 2022 they will have all developed their pus to be quite close to each other. Acceptably close anyway.

  14. Really @dean franklin / @sjzelli ? ” worst 8 years in the sport’s history ” – SERIOUSLY????
    Peruse this – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Formula_One_fatalities
    NB: this does NOT incl drivers killed in races other than F1, eg Jim Clark & Piers Courage, which actually makes the ’60’s deadlier. Agree Bruce McLaren & Peter Revson killed in non-F1 races in ’70’s. Have been a F1 nut since ’63 & dreaded Monday Morning sports news on way to high school.

    Re: Marshals, Van Vuuren was a double whammy as his 18kg extinguisher hit Tom Pryce in the head. I believe it decapitated Tom & the extinguisher was found in a car door located behind a nearby grandstand.
    Also fellow marshal, Graham Beveridge, ’01 AustGP, died when a wheel/tyre miraculously flew through a designed hole in the safety catch fencing and struck him.
    Was not at that corner, but was on-duty that race. It hurts.

    To all those drivers & marshals R.I.P.

    1. I couldn’t care less tbh; all those drivers and marshals knew what they were getting into.
      If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

      I feel far more sorry for all the innocent people bombed to dead, slaughtered to dead, raped, burned and whatnot by various goverments, terrorist groups and global corporations in pursuit of a war on terrorism, drugs, global domination, profit and whatnot.

      Who cares about a bunch of adventurers voluntary partaking in a dangerous sport and dying?

    2. Obviously I’m talking about the worst 8 years in terms of competitive racing at the front of the field.

      Fatalities were expected in motor racing back then (and even now there is risk).

      Everyone knew what hey were getting into.

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