Helmut Marko states Red Bull doesn’t want to be at mercy of rival F1 manufacturers as he favours Honda IP route if situation works out as winning title for Max Verstappen is a big goal.
It goes without saying that Honda’s departure from F1 has left Red Bull, and its sister team AlphaTauri, without many desirable options. The Austrian outfit are considering developing an engine program of their own, built from the ashes of the Honda operation, but borderline-inhibitory costs and other factors present a challenge.
The simplest option seems to be orchestrating an engine deal with an existing manufacturer, perhaps rekindling their relationship with Renault, or establishing one with Ferrari or Mercedes. However, besides the obvious unlikelihood of a deal with the German manufacturer, the lack of performance delivered by the Italian’s offering, and the discordant relationship that they intended to leave in the past with the French one, this plan could prove costly in other ways.
In particular, a lack of harmony between F1 engine supplier and carmaker threatens the competitiveness of future packages. It was this that motivated Red Bull to find an engine supplier that granted them their independence back in 2018, coordination between the two parties naturally affording Red Bull the right to design a chassis to their liking as they worked with Honda to produce a compatible engine.
This is one factor deterring Red Bull from pursuing this option, according to the team’s Marko. “All engine manufacturers have their own team and that means they develop the engine around their chassis,” said the Austrian in an interview with Sport1. “We would get something where we would have to adapt our chassis and our ideas secondary, and we would be confronted with a technical solution that we would have to accept.
“That’s why the Honda solution is our favourite. Nevertheless, we are exploring all possibilities. According to the FIA regulations, every engine manufacturer has committed itself to supplying other teams. If something like this is to be a possibility for us, then it must fit the overall situation, and it must make us competitive.
“A happy forced marriage is not an issue for us,” Marko continued, possibly alluding to a clause in the regulations that demands that the team supplying the fewest outfits at any given point must supply a given team without an engine partnership already in place.
As the 77-year-old stated, a situation in which they produce an in-house engine program is ideal. However, he also explains that a development freeze on F1 engines would be necessary for this to happen, as they would aim to hit the ground running, and cost-raising regulations regarding fuels would complicate their plans.
“It’s a very complex subject,” said Marko. “Just as complex as these engines are. We would favour, provided the talks with Honda are positive, that we take over the IP rights and everything that is necessary, to then prepare and deploy the engines ourselves in Milton Keynes. But this is only possible on condition that the engines are frozen by the first race in 2022 at the latest.
“We cannot afford further development, neither technically nor financially. That is a prerequisite,” he asserted, also explaining that logistically this plan is otherwise feasible, thanks to floor space at their Milton Keynes base, and the proximity of Honda’s current F1 facilities. “Seeing as we have multiple buildings in Milton Keynes and Honda also has one there, it would be realistic to start building engines as soon as 2022.
“But we have to know as soon as possible what options we have,” adds Marko. “The team’s boss, Christian Horner, also addressed this, and the point of whether or not Andy Cowell could head the operation. The Brit said of the engineer that he was very much ‘capable’, but clarified that he does not know anything about Cowell’s plans, the engine guru having announced his coming departure from Mercedes recently.
No matter the outcome of this situation, the uncertainty calls into question whether or not Max Verstappen will be willing to continue with the team when they lack engine security. The Dutchman sits at the center of Red Bull’s current F1 ambitions as a talent that they have nurtured since 2015.
Speaking on Verstappen, Marko explained that he was left impressed having witnessed a remarkable wet drive from him at the Norisring in F3. The Austrian also stated that his wish for the future is to make the Dutchman F1’s youngest champion, eclipsing the record Sebastian Vettel set with the team in 2010 – which he can still do it in 2020 if he wins but seems unlikely against Lewis Hamilton. The German won it at 23 years and 134 days.
“First and foremost, I still want to make Verstappen the youngest World Champion so it will remain in the Red Bull family as Vettel also became the youngest,” Marko said. Also in the Sport1 interview, the Austrian was asked to compare the team’s current star with Vettel. He responded, “We don’t want to compare drivers against each other. We want drivers to develop their own style, their own personality and therefore, each driver will be different and cannot be compared against each other.”
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Additional information/translation from @MsportXtra