Red Bull factory, Milton Keynes, 2021

Red Bull appoint Mercedes engineer as technical director of new power unit division

2021 F1 season

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Red Bull’s newly-formed Formula 1 power unit division, Red Bull Powertrains, has announced a key hiring from rivals Mercedes.

Ben Hodgkinson will join Red Bull Powertrains as technical director after completing his current contract as head of mechanical engineering at Mercedes-Benz High Performance Powertrains. He has spent over two decades with the manufacturer, which has swept both F1 world championship titles for the last seven years.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Hodgkinson “comes to this hugely exciting project as a proven race winner and as an innovator capable of leading a like-minded team of highly skilled engineers.”

The new Red Bull Powertrains division is being constructed at the team’s headquarters in Milton Keynes, a short distance from Mercedes’ engine facility at Brixworth. It will take over the maintenance and production of the team’s Honda power units after the manufacturer leaves F1 at the end of this year.

“When Red Bull announced the creation of Red Bull Powertrains it was also announcing a new phase of the company’s ambition in Formula 1 – to bring every aspect of car design in-house and to put our destiny in our own hands,” said Horner.

“The ultimate expression of that is the development of a Red Bull power unit to meet the next generation of Formula 1 engine regulations. Ben’s appointment signals our long-term intent and we will support him and his team with every available resource required in order to succeed.”

Hodgkinson admitted “it was not easy to make the decision to leave HPP after almost 20 years but the opportunity to take on such a far-reaching and important project is a great honour.”

“Red Bull is a serious player in Formula 1 and have been our biggest rival in the hybrid era,” he added “so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together in this new phase of the company’s journey.”

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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...

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46 comments on “Red Bull appoint Mercedes engineer as technical director of new power unit division”

  1. Probably next year on Gardening Leave I’d suggest.

    1. It doesn’t say in the article, and I think they’ll make an exception like they did with Budkowski from FIA to Renault. It’s anyway now an engine freeze period and then a radical change from 2025.

      1. @dbradock I agree that’s possible but I wonder if it might just be for the off-season between this season and next.

        @balue I think it is different with Budkowski going from a position where he was not inside an F1 team ahead of going to Renault, so he wasn’t unfairly bringing another team’s secrets there upon immediate effect. And I think that just because there is an engine freeze period until 2025 doesn’t mean Ben Hodgkinson won’t be extremely helpful from day one, whenever that will be for him at Red Bull Powertrains.

        1. @robbie Budkowski was FIA tech chief so knew a lot about all the teams’ car and engine which is why everyone initially wanted him to have a year gardening leave

          1. @balue Looking at Renault/Alpine’s performance over the past few seasons, I think we can safely say Budkowski didn’t know as much as people believed.

          2. @balue Actually it is incorrect to say he had no garden leave, so no exception was made for him, and he took no secrets with him for what he knew was already outdated by the time he joined Renault anyway. And as @mashiat points out, a lot of good it did Renault anyway so obviously it was overblown. But hey, I do get that teams would squawk about it, for that’s what all teams do on occasion.


          3. @robbie It was just a few months and in time to start the new season. The were grumblings but let it pass.

            But the main point is also in the article you link to where Budkowski says much gardening leave wasn’t really required because it was a quiet time in F1, which is the same reason why I guess they’ll let Hodgkinson move straight away, because it’s similarly quiet now.

          4. @balue I don’t know…I can see him getting some gardening leave.

    2. He will spend time in the heat of the kitchen, regenerative baking.

  2. That sounds like good news. I assume that the budget caps have made this possible. Good news for the fans as it seems Mercedes will not be able to hoard the most talented people on the planet for themselves anymore and cakewalk the championship every year.

    1. You say that like they are doing something wrong/immoral/unlawful. Do calm down sweet.

      1. Although there’s nothing morally wrong with outspending your opposition, it does make your achievements less special.

        For example, Man City winning the Premier League is clearly not as special of an achievement as Leicester winning it.

        1. It’s not as easy as you make it sound though @kingshark.
          Spending tons of money is not enough by itself. The engineer still has to do his work on CFD, or the wind tunnel or whatever, humans still have to make important discoveries that call for urgent meetings and updates to the car. Yes, more money make that more likely to happen for a number of reasons. Still, what in the end actually happens when Mercedes finds a new development worth a 0.1s improvement, is the same as would happen if it was found by your midfield or even backmarker/underdog team. A similar position, doing a similar job finding a similar result.
          Looking at it this way you can still appreciate what the big guns are achieving these days, or in fact any epoch of F1. It’s not just a “who’s got more money to spend” competition-fest. Look at Toyota. Red Bull went from being dominant in 2013 to being midfield material in 2014, and yet I heard people in 2013 attacking Red Bull because their success was all because of tons of money spent and gained by selling energy drinks. Clearly either that wasn’t the case, or 1 year later that wasn’t enough.

          1. There is absolutely a direct relation between budget and performance on the track. Sure, an it is still up to an engineering team to design the car, but a team with a larger budget can hire more engineers. A team with a larger budget can spend more time in the wind tunnel, more time with CFD, they can construct more prototypes. A team with a larger budget also has more flexibility to do risky things. The only exception to this in the last 20 years is Brawn GP, and those were special circumstances that cannot be replicated.

          2. @mittens let me point out another exception to the rule when it comes to performance/budget “return on investment”: Ferrari; they have spent hundreds of millions per year and have not won a drivers or constructors championship since 2008.

        2. @kingshark on the other hand, it could be pointed out that you are comparing the entirety of the Mercedes team against Red Bull as a chassis manufacturer only, thus leaving any spending by Honda “off the books” and giving an arguably misleading picture of what could be considered the true effective budget of Red Bull.

          Asides from that, if you are going with complaints about spending power, could you not then say that, since Red Bull has traditionally been able to outspend the bulk of the grid, that any podiums or victories they have secured were “less special” because they could outspend so many of their potential rivals as well?

          Do the achievements of every single team on the grid that spends more than the lowest spending team on the grid then have to be knocked back as “less special” on the grounds that they were better financed and resourced than their rivals? At what point do you draw the line?

    2. Clearly F1 should bring some rules in so that Mercedes can’t “hoard the most talented people”!!

      1. It would be much better if RB cakewalk the championship every year? The budget cap only comes into it as one of the rules exempt divers and executives salaries from the budget. Effectively you could name the janitor ( ridiculous, I know) “Chief Cleaning operation Officer” and is salary would be above the cap. So poaching people at astronomical cost has never been easier. Of course, by design, only certain wealthy teams ;) can afford the stratagem.
        By the way, when did hiring and keeping the best people became unethical ? And when did preventing someone to do so became a GOOD thing?

    3. Yes, thank god the poorer teams such as RB can now afford a bit of talent.

    4. Nothing to do with budget cap. Engine is EXEMPT from the cap only freeze expected before 2025.

    5. Indeed @aliced. Thankfully those underfunded and teams traditionally devoid of power such as Ferrari for example now might have a chance.

    6. This has nothing to do with the cost cap. Mercedes Brixworth factory is not included in the cost cap. Engine manufacturing isn’t included.

      1. Red Bull would never be able to run their own engine program without the introduction of the budget cap.

        Red Bull are saving about $190m per year as a direct result of the budget cap. They used to spend around $335m per season on the chassis, now they are limited to only $145m.

        Red Bull are nowhere near as big of a company as Mercedes overall, they can’t compete with them without a budget cap.

  3. I always thought McLaren would make there own engines before they would went with Honda. I think Red Bull is really going for the top on the longer run.

    1. Red Bull are very much “Go hard or go home” and they’re going very hard indeed.

      1. One of the few teams who’s actually ready to spend the bucks necessary to get to the top

        1. Infinite Wisdom
          23rd April 2021, 15:15

          Umm… They got a ready made engine handed to them and an engine freeze. The budget cap and time until a decision will make sure they don’t spend too much too soon on whatever the next gen engines are.

          McLaren are spending more on a new wind tunnel. Your enthusiasm is misdirected.

    2. Redbull aren’t asking their own engine though. They are just maintaining a honda engine. It’s why they pushed for a engine freeze

  4. I’m really pleased they’ve taken on the Honda PU. Firstly as it keeps that engine in F1 but also turns Red Bull into a fully-fledged manufacturer team. The positive there is that for the first time they have total control over the engine, but negative that if it doesn’t work for the first time they’ll have nowhere to hide.

    I had figured they were doing it just until they could lure another manufacturer in but with the hirings and this mentality of get the best or not at all, maybe they plan on sticking with this for longer? Could we see other smaller teams want to use the ‘Red Bull’ engine too eventually? Williams-Red Bull?

    Also kinda funny that Red Bull will have two teams running ‘their’ PU’s but Renault will still only have one.

    1. From what I understand, they want to have their own PU (and not just some bought Honda IP) from 2025 on

      1. @rocketpanda @paeschli Yeah from what I took from what they have said so far about their future, they would certainly do their due diligence if someone (like Porsche for example) expressed an interest in a partnership with them for 2025, but they are not setting themselves up to NEED a partnership if at all possible. They are making all the right moves to becoming independent and to making their own engines in house and becoming a completely full works operation to the same level as Mercedes and Ferrari come 2025. But I think for now sure, if Porsche or someone else presented a very strong case as to why they should be a partner to RBR, great, maybe there’d be something there, but certainly not in terms of selling pus to RBR and RBR being a customer of Porsche (again, just as an example). It would be, as I envision it, a partnership to make RBR badged engines in house, integrated fully with their chassis all at the same time, with expertise from a Porsche or a whoever. But ideally, no…fully RBR staff fully equipped to make RBR pus integrated fully with the RBR chassis’ fully in-house.

  5. Momentum is an amazing thing. Once it starts nothing can stop it. I’m predicting that Toto himself will jump ship and announce an advisory role at RB. Before that he will sell his stake in Bottas that’s for sure.

    1. That sounds a tad far fetched IMO. He probably wants more (and plushier), like leading F1 or even Daimler.

    2. That would be funny! Do you think the other Austrian would take it well?

  6. They can start by doing something about that window on their building; or, is that Dr. Marko’s office. Frosty.

  7. And with this, the power unit freeze Red Bull pushed for should be rescinded.

    1. Yep. RB: We can’t do development, no,no, sir, just maintenance sir. Can’t afford development sir. Sir it’s no fair if the others can develop, cause we can’t afford development. Can we freeze please ?
      FIA: Ok
      RB: Yeeeeeeeeeeees, Got-ya!
      RB:1 FIA:0 stay tuned, game not over. :) :)

      1. Lol what childishness both of you.

      2. It looks pretty clear that RBR is looking well beyond the current Power Unit formula to doing the development work for the new regulations, in whatever form they may be.
        Their willingness to commit the resources and $$$ may indicate that they have some knowledge of what the new formula is going to look like.
        It’s one thing to plan for future development and expansion. A commitment that will provide benefits for years to come. Spending $$$ on development of the existing (did someone say lame duck) power unit formula would be a near complete waste for RBR. Hence the dichotomy of pushing for a freeze now and development down the road.
        Clearly some serious thinking and planning at work. Love-it.

    2. The problem for redbull is for 2022 Mercedes, Renault & ferrari are all going to have brand new engines. Most will be 2 years in development. Meanwhile redbull have a Honda engine that isnt going to have much changes to it as I can’t see honda throwing money at an engine they will have nothing to do with.

      1. Adam that is simply not true. RBR already have the pu that was planned for 2022 that Honda pushed forward to this year due to the circumstances of the freeze and them leaving. There is nothing to say they won’t have another step yet ahead of the freeze. RBR will have Honda pus that will be every bit as up to snuff as the other three pu makers.

  8. What incredibly great and exciting news for RBR. What a coup. Luring such an experience expert from the main competition into their fold. Amazing. Takes something from them, and adds to themselves immensely. Fantastic stuff. Huge kudos to RBR and the moves they are making for the future. So stoked for them. Big pay rise for Ben no doubt, and a wonderful new challenge for him as well.

    1. He is also under contract until 2022 so he isnt gonna to be much help for redbull next year. So they have hired someone who won’t be able to make any changes to its 2022 engine.

      1. Adam that’s fine. Doesn’t change my comment. That I’m aware of some key Honda members will be on board and joining RBR as they pass the final iteration of pu late this year or early 2022 to RBR, so all good.

  9. So Andy Cowell obviously not interested?

  10. This has been updated to add a missing word from Hodgkinson’s job title at Mercedes: head of mechanical engineering.

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