Red Bull is clashing with Formula 1 rivals over its desire to implement an engine development freeze in 2022, to help it take over Honda’s abandoned programme.
Honda will leave F1 at the end of 2021, leaving Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri in need of an alternative engine supply arrangement.
Red Bull’s preferred option is to take over Honda’s engines and intellectual property, something the Japanese manufacturer is open to facilitating, and create a continuation project with support from a third party.
This would stop Red Bull having to return to a simple customer relationship with Renault, the engine partner it fell out with before divorcing at the end of 2018.
However, taking over the Honda engines will require significant financial investment to put the necessary human and technical resources in place, and Red Bull wants to reduce that burden by bringing forward an engine freeze from 2023 to 2022.
Under F1’s current timeline, engine manufacturers can introduce one new specification in 2021, 2022 and 2023, before keeping the same specification in 2024 and 2025.
That would require Red Bull’s Honda continuation project to plan and execute an upgrade after Honda withdraws, whereas a freeze for 2022 would reduce the technological and financial investment.
Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has been widely reported in German media to have said that Red Bull could withdraw both its teams if it does not feel it can strike the right engine arrangement.
However, this is viewed by the team’s rivals as a bluff to strongarm F1 into making a rule change that would allow it to have the benefits of having its own engine plan, without the commitment existing engine manufacturers are making.
The Race understands the issue will be discussed at a meeting of the F1 Commission on Monday after the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault are keen for F1 to reduce costs, which a 2022 development freeze would achieve in the short-term.
And as the benchmark power unit builder Mercedes is open to a freeze, while Renault could support it if equal engine performance can be achieved by then.
An early freeze would not be in Ferrari’s interest though given it is playing catch up with its engine performance since falling back because of various rule clarifications introduced over the last year, so it is unlikely to agree on that basis.
But the manufacturers’ positions are not defined solely by the performance implications of Red Bull’s request.
At least two of the three manufacturers are understood to question whether F1 should change its rules when Red Bull has the simple alternative of turning to Renault for an engine supply if funding a takeover of the Honda engine is considered too expensive.
F1 also has big plans to introduce 100% sustainable fuels in 2023, an objective that a development freeze in 2022 would be a major hurdle to – if not eliminate entirely.