Red Bull has hired a senior member of Mercedes High Performance Powertrains to head up its new Formula 1 engine division.
As current engine partner Honda is leaving F1 at the end of 2021, Red Bull has struck a deal with the Japanese manufacturer to continue using its engines in 2022 and beyond.
Red Bull Powertrains has been created to manage the project. The company is in the process of expanding its Milton Keynes facility and recruiting key personnel.
The first major signing has now been announced, with Mercedes AMG HPP head of mechanical engineering Ben Hodgkinson set to become Red Bull Powertrains technical director.
Hodgkinson has extensive experience developing race engines in world rallying, sportscars and F1.
He will join Red Bull “once the terms of his current contract with HPP are fulfilled”.
Red Bull team boss and CEO 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”.
Hodgkinson will head up “all technical aspects with a key focus on developing Red Bull’s inaugural power unit, to comply with the new Formula 1 regulations currently planned for 2025”.
That means Red Bull will work on the basis of having to build its own engine for the new rules, rather than bank on attracting a new manufacturer beyond the 2022-2024 engine freeze.
“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.”
As part of the Mercedes HPP team, Hodgkinson has played a fundamental role in Mercedes’ seven consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles – a run that started thanks to the new V6 turbo-hybrid rules introduced in 2014.
He said it was “not easy” to decide to leave HPP after almost 20 years, having started when it was still Ilmor, but that “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,” said Hodgkinson.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together in this new phase of the company’s journey.”