Red Bull “desperately trying to catch up” with rivals on 2026 engine programme

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In the round-up: Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says they have a long way to go with preparations to build their own power units from 2026.

In brief

Horner: “We’re desperately trying to catch up” with our engine department

After Red Bull’s engine supplier Honda exited Formula 1 at the end of 2021, the team took over the manufacturing of its own power units, which are now badged ‘RBPT Honda’ to reflect their lineage. However from 2026 onwards a new engine formula will be introduced in F1, and Red Bull will be fully responsible for the design of its future power units.

“We’re building a new engine for 2026 as well, and we’re desperately trying to catch up,” Horner said in an interview for the team’s website. “We’re building it here [in Milton Keynes, at the racing team’s base], it’s a start-up new business that we’ve welcomed 400 new members to the team in, and we started from scratch.

“We had our first V6 engine running about nine months ago, and we’re building on that. There’s never a dull moment.”

Although it’s not entirely clear who will be supplying which teams in some instances, the FIA has already confirmed that Alpine, Audi, Ferrari, Honda, Mercedes, and Red Bull (the latter in partnership with Ford) will be the engine manufacturers present on the F1 grid come 2026.

Indy 500 winner Johncock honoured with ‘Baby Borg’ trophy

Gordon Johncock, the 1976 IndyCar champion and winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1973 and 1982, has received a ‘Baby Borg’ trophy from Borg-Warner who make the winner’s trophy that is presented each year at the Indy 500.

The replica ‘Baby Borg’ trophy was handed to Johncock at a presentation in Indianapolis with 100 guests, as next month marks the 50th anniversary of his first Indy 500 win.

It was special to have everyone be part of the day,” he said. “And thanks to all my old crew members. It takes a whole team to win at Indy or any race and they were right by my side for all those years and I’m happy to see them too. It takes a lot of luck to win Indy, it’s the hardest and greatest race to win in the world.”

Johncock’s IndyCar career started in 1964, with his first win coming a year later. He stopped racing in the series full-time at the end of 1984, at which point he had amassed 25 wins from 255 races. He did eight further races over the next eight years before retiring.

IndyCar champion Palou signs drivers to his own team

Palou Motorsport, the new junior single-seater team launched by 2021 IndyCar champion and McLaren F1 reserve driver Alex Palou, has announced its drivers for the upcoming Eurocup-3 season.

Eurocup-3 is a new European series using cars based on Formula Regional chassis, and has so far attracted 12 drivers. Palou’s team will run Russian racer Miron Pingasov and Spanish talent Javier Sagrera.

Pingasov steps up after two years racing in Formula 4, where he had a best finish of fourth, while Sagrera has raced in GB3 for two seasons and picked up two podium results in that time.

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Comment of the day

F1 has been fiddling with its sprint race format just days before the first one of the season, and this year there are six of them after three apiece were trialled in 2021 and 2022. Will the concept continue into 2024?

Given all this talk about adding more absurdity on top of the already absurd concept of sprint races, I have a question about their future, if someone has any new info on this…

When sprints were first announced back in 2021, it was reported that F1 signed a multi-million 3-year deal with for sponsorship reasons. That deal basically guaranteed that no matter how boring, stupid and flat out bad the sprint races would be, their place was secured until 2023 at least. And it was obvious that all that effort from F1 to spin sprint races as something positive, when the overwhelming majority thought otherwise, was just PR while they received their nice sponsorship money.

My question is this, now that the three-year original deal ends at the end of the year, has it been reported or rumoured anywhere about F1 signing an extension or a new contract regarding the sprints? Because once you take the money out of the picture, it’s much easier for F1 to quietly drop them, if the majority of drivers and teams agree…

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to El Gordo!

Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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14 comments on “Red Bull “desperately trying to catch up” with rivals on 2026 engine programme”

  1. COTD brings up an interesting possibility. We’ll find out eventually, but I don’t mind either way.

  2. I had no idea Fenway were in bed with iRacing. The idea of the iRacing team making a dedicated Indycar title sounds amazing on paper.

    1. Except for their financial model, which is awful. You don’t buy it – you can only rent it.
      Also their PC-only release model – too bad if you only have a Playstation or XBox.
      Likewise if you are a more casual gamer and don’t require it to be a reasonably accurate simulation, but rather would prefer a slightly more fun, balanced and accessible game.

  3. I have a (grudging) respect for RBR trying to make their own engines for 2026, though above all else I’m hoping it will restore some balance. I’ve always disliked F1 being aero-dominated, though I also don’t want it to be engine-dominated. We started to get a balance in the years approaching the new ground effect era, which wouldn’t have been upset ridiculously (IMHO) by the new regulations if there hadn’t been an engine freeze. It’ll be nice in 2026 to see the engines come back into play again, and I’m looking forward to seeing how RBPT do with it.

    (Full disclosure: I understand engines really well. Aerodynamics, I have no more than a passing knowledge of. As someone who follows the technical side of F1 more strongly than the racing, it’s far more interesting for me to see engine developments than witchcraft, I mean aerodynamics)

  4. Nobody is buying it this time Horner, the engine changes will be happening with or without you.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      27th April 2023, 11:46

      Horner got what he wanted and then got Honda to carry on. At the beginning of all of this it was made to look like ORBR would need their engine now or 24 / 25.

      Unlike Ferrari, Alpine and Mercedes who have to contend with 2 engine designs he has the luxury of only having to concentrate on one.

      His whining has gone on long enough with this one.

      1. Horner got what he wanted and then got Honda to carry on.

        People should note that during the Covid lockdown there was an enforced shutdown period for all the engine works – in Europe.
        Then the engine homologation.
        I think he got all the “catchup” tokens then.

        Any chance he could sing a different song, just for a change?

    2. Nobody is buying it this time Horner, the engine changes will be happening with or without you

      I think he’s pitching for an extra bucket of cash outside the cap. Must have realised that his accountants aren’t as good at hiding the overspend as he thought. The useless penalty last year seems to have had one minor effect then.

  5. With regards to the sprint races, is it wishful thinking that they’re not popular with the fans?

    The numbers that don’t lie are viewing figures: are more people watching the Saturday sprint races than they were for qualifying for regular races? Maybe, maybe not.

    But are more people watching a main race, sprint race, sprint quali and regular quali than they would a regular quali and a main race with 2 friday practice sessions? Probably. So Liberty win.

    For the record, I have never watched a sprint race. Tinkering with the format had turned this fab off, so I’m not adding myself to the viewing figures for anything but the regular race on a sprint weekend.

    1. Last year’s YouTube figures suggest that, yes, people watch.

      Brazil’s Sprint Qualifying got 4,5 million YouTube views.
      Austria’s Sprint Qualifying got 4,2 million YouTube views.
      Imola’s Sprint Qualifying got 5,2 million YouTube views.

      This is very comparable to qualifying, which gets about 4 ,5 million views on average.

      Races get about 8 million views, with some swings down to 5 (Brazil) and up to 11 (Bahrain, season opener).

    2. This is a very good point. F1 aren’t going to listen to “hardcore fans” if the numbers don’t back it up.

      I think the important question, from their point of view, is “Are the viewer numbers up, overall across a weekend, by an amount which will bring in more advertising revenue?” Also, “Are sales of Friday tickets up, so we can charge tracks more for hosting the event?”

      I strongly suspect the answer to both is “Yes”. There will probably be far more viewers for Qually on Friday than there were for a practice session, and there is likely to be a similar effect for Saturday’s “Sprint Shootout”. As for ticket sales, I know several people who have never bothered going to a GP on Friday before who have started doing so since Sprints started…

      I’d like to see the numbers involved (and we’re not talking just YouTube, here), but my gut tells me that they will be on Liberty’s side here.

      1. @drmouse I think that’s a fair assessment. Introducing the sprint races over the last 2 years has lead to an increase in competitive sessions from 2 to 3. Now we have another increase to 4 now that qualy has split.

        Pre-1996 you used to have the 2 qualy sessions but the weather could always write one off so it’s kind of a return to that. But if you take 1996, we had 16 races so 32 competitive sessions. This season has 23 races including 6 sprints, so 17×2 + 6×4 competitive sessions for a total of 58. Which would be 62 for a 25 race season with 6 sprints is nearly double the number over . It’s basically pushing a 60% or so increase in viewing time required it you want to see every session that matters, so more opportunity for advertising opportunities.

        It’s been coming, since we had 17 races in 1995 & 97 after around a decade locked at 16 races per year. 2005 had 19 races, 2003 16 and every other year in the decade 17 or 18. Bernie saw the opportunity and Liberty are just pushing for that little bit more but I think have realised that 25+ races just won’t happen – so add the sprints as an added bonus.

        Essentially if they can’t get more races in, add more sprints to get more eyeballs on the TV. And even if fewer people watch, having the fans who want to watch everything competitive (but would ignore practice sessions, like I tend to do) would still lead to those people investing more time – until they decide enough is enough. But I think you’re right and that gut feeling is that it is actually working for Liberty so they’ll keep at it.

        F1 isn’t the only sport to do this – UEFA creating the Conference league and Nations league in exchange for fewer friendlys is a good example that people “apparently don’t care for those games”. Same for adding more teams to the Euros and World Cup, it’s about adding more games so that people will watch more. Without the number of days/weeks/months in a year increasing to compensate, something will eventually give and people will move on or watch less.

    3. @unicron2002

      With regards to the sprint races, is it wishful thinking that they’re not popular with the fans?

      Well I might be wrong, but we’ve had 6 sprints so far and just reading the comments on this site and others, I came to that conclusion. Also it seems that drivers and teams seem to think that sprints are an extra nuisance during the weekend. Personally until a few years ago, I would make every possible effort I could to watch every race, but the fact that we have 23+6 races this year, makes me feel that I’m not gonna regret it if I miss a couple of races by accident, it’s just too tiring sometimes.

      The viewing numbers though can be a bit misleading. The fact that people watch the sprints has more to do with it’s timing… people usually watch the Saturday afternoon session, whether it’s sprint or normal qualifying. By the same logic if we only take into account only the viewing numbers, it would seem people were equally into elimination qualifying in 2016 and double points in the finale in 2014.
      Does Friday qualifying have higher viewing numbers than normal Friday practice? Yes, obviously, but less people have free time during Friday to watch the qualifying because of that.

      I know it makes ‘fiscal’ sense for Liberty to keep craming more competitive sessions through every of the 52 weekends in a year, but at some point there is going to be some blowback. Maybe the interest in sprints will drop since they are mostly pointless, maybe some high profile drivers decide to quit early (like Vettel) because it’s becoming to much for them…
      In my opinion, I would drop the sprints and 2 practice sessions and streamline an F1 weekend into 2 days (FP1 & Quali on Saturday – Race on Sunday). It might not be as profitable as the sprints, but it would save Liberty some money compared to the 17 normal weekends, make life easier for teams and drivers given there are already 23 races (and increasing) and help with the sustainability of the entire calendar.

  6. With regard to Horner’s comment, I can only say that a pig just flew past my window.

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