Ex-Mercedes power unit mastermind Cowell “not an option” for Red Bull

2021 F1 season

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Hiring the engineer who led the development of Mercedes’ world championship-dominating V6 hybrid turbo power units is not an option for Red Bull’s new F1 engine division, says Helmut Marko.

Andy Cowell headed up Mercedes’ High Performance Powertrains division, whose engines have powered the championship-winning cars and drivers for the last seven years. He left the company at the end of January.

Marko, Red Bull’s motorsport consultant, indicated the team’s interest in Cowell in an interview with Motorsport-Magazin, shared with RaceFans.

Asked whether they had spoken to Cowell about joining the new Red Bull Powertrains department, Marko said “we always talk”, but confirmed the 52-year-old will not be joining them.

“He would be a nice option, but he is not currently an option,” said Marko.

Red Bull is setting up its own powertrain division to run its Honda-designed power units after the manufacturer leaves Formula 1 at the end of the year. The engines will be produced in the Rindt building at the Red Bull Technology Campus, named after 1970 world champion Jochen Rindt.

“The western part of the building has been adapted to be mobile test bench area,” explained Marko. “The rest of the test equipment and production hall will come into this building.”

The new facility will produce its first engines for use in the 2023 Formula 1 season.

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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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15 comments on “Ex-Mercedes power unit mastermind Cowell “not an option” for Red Bull”

  1. “He would be a nice option, but he is not currently an option…
    … due to duration of his non compete clause as part of his Mercedes exit, however after that period is up, he will join”

    …allegedly

    1. @harrisf1 yes, the key word there was currently, wasn’t it

  2. If the new facility won’t produce PU’s until 2023, who is producing the ones for next year?

    Aren’t Honda leaving at the end of this year?

    1. Honda are giving their support and most of the racing team will be employed by the new company.

    2. Most of the production work is being done by AVL, and in reality they will still be doing most of the actual construction work for the long term too. Red Bull’s involvement really isn’t as big as they make out it is in the press – their main role is pumping in the cash to pay for AVL to do the majority of the work.

      1. anon But as Horner has said, and as @macleod hints at, they are also looking to acquire staff as time goes along in the next few years. Sure initially RBR will be paying AVL, but I get the distinct impression that more and more RBR will devolve out of paying AVL and rather take on staff and eventually become fully involved constructors of their own pu and chassis all in-house. So I would debate with you how ‘long term’ AVL’s involvement will be, for that sure doesn’t seem to be the case by what Horner has said. And sure Horner even implied they would not ignore a strong pairing with someone like Porsche for example, for the next pu format, if that was prudent, but that would still be Porsche ‘set up’ or ‘involved’ at RBR’s Powertrain Unit, not Porsche sending them pus to install ala a customer arrangement.

        I think pretty much by 2024/25 RBR will have acquired the staff, knowledge, and resources via their Powertrain Unit to be able to make their own pu, and thus become fully independent that way. I envision that even if they take on a partner for the next gen pu, that will be for added ideas, knowledge, and expertise, but the physical construction and integration of pu to chassis and chassis to pu will be done by RBR staff. That RBR staff will be a combination of existing men and women who are there now, along with Honda staff that they will retain as Honda leaves, along with AVL staff that will move sideways and get their, presumably bigger paychecks from RBR, as they evolve to becoming independent as a full factory works team.

        1. @robbie considering that, at least once in the past, Red Bull looked at the possibility of commissioning AVL to produce engines for them, it is a lot more likely that Red Bull will be getting AVL to do the majority of the work on the engines.

          Horner’s comments come across as PR spin for the press and public, and more of a branding exercise for the team than anything else. AVL is a multi-billion specialist mechanical engineering company that is a leading specialist supplier for pretty much the entire motorsport industry (and the wider automotive industry in general) and they are one of the leading companies in the development of the current V6 turbo engines that are used in F1.

          They have contemporary experience in F1 – they have worked with Honda for several years, Renault commissioned them to undertake specialist dyno testing on their power unit a few years ago, they undertook a major redesign of Ferrari’s engine back in 2015 and they are currently undertaking a parallel project to develop a major upgrade for Ferrari’s current engine that might even see Ferrari’s engine being replaced with AVL’s design instead. Similarly, they have some of the most advanced engine dynamometer testing facilities in the world and an excellent reputation for their engine simulation tools.

          Also, I really doubt that “AVL staff that will move sideways and get their, presumably bigger, paychecks from RBR”. To put it bluntly, most engineering jobs in F1 don’t pay any better than industry average – it’s an open secret that a lot of younger engineers don’t want to stay in F1 because they know that they can get better pay and better working conditions elsewhere, and Red Bull is no exception.

          If anything, whilst I don’t think you intended it to have that tone, that part of your post comes across as having a slightly arrogant and patronising attitude, as if those workers at AVL should be grateful that Red Bull might give them the honour of working in F1.

          1. https://www.racefans.net/2021/02/16/red-bull-preparing-to-develop-their-own-power-units-for-new-2025-f1-rules/

            I really don’t see this as spin but your comments seem to come across moreso as such in order to shade them as I know you’re not a fan. You seem rather stuck on them being incapable of being anything but dependent on an entity such as AVL, just because they may have once considered having AVL produce engines for them, according to you. They speak of working towards independence and gathering the personnel to do so, and that to me means head hunting from existing Honda workers as well as possibly from AVL, for if they want the independence they speak of, and I see no reason why these moves they’re making would not be a hint of that, then of course they’re likely going to make some enticing offers to some key people.

            I think it reflects on you moreso that you think I was ‘unintentionally’ being arrogant and patronizing with your suggestion that F1 engineering jobs are not all that, almost like why would anyone want them. ‘Better pay and working conditions elsewhere?’ You know that how? It’s like you are suggesting F1 or Red Bull must struggle to fill these positions, like working within the pinnacle of global Motorsport is no biggie. Undesirable even, by your tone. Perhaps ask yourself why you feel the need to take a patronizing attitude towards F1 engineers jobs in accusing me of patronizing the likes of AVL employees, Honda employees, et al, of whom I would be surprised wouldn’t love the opportunity to work on a top F1 team.

            Are you sure it isn’t just that you can’t stand the thought of Red Bull growing into a more formidable force by taking the measures that are necessary these days to truly succeed, with the pu and chassis integration that Horner speaks of? You actually think the heavy investment they are making in their Powertrain Division is spin? Like they need to fake being a full in-house operation as a branding exercise and in reality are just going to remain customers? I think you’re grasping at straws and are the one being patronizing to them. But then as I say if I’m not mistaken I believe you have admitted despising them.

    3. Good point! I guess Honda will make the engines for next year, but there won’t be any development, so the specification for the engines produced towards the end of this year will be the same specifications as those built next year.

  3. I have been wondering whether Cowell’s exit will be the beginning of Mercedes’ slide down the grid, a la Ferrari in the mid-2000s onwards. Time will tell

    1. @alloythere I hadn’t thought of this possibility, although if it were to happen, probably not just yet.

    2. @alloythere yeah but Ferrari’s decline happened for a variety of reasons, not just an individual in charge of the engine or chassis or whatever leaving the team. It’ll take more than Cowell’s departure for Mercedes’ form to change. After all they already lost Aldo Costa and that didn’t change much…

  4. That’s true about Costa.

    But key people leaving do tend to start having an effect on teams (not least because they often resurface elsewhere- in itself an interesting continuing story for Cowell).

    I would probably agree with you, and Jere, that 2021 is too early to see a difference. But it might the beginnings of something (especially if Hamilton was to move on next year).

  5. RB always said the opposite thing so …..

  6. Not an option but almost certainly optioned.

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