Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Formula 1 should do “everything” to help Red Bull take on Honda’s abandoned project, and would support an engine development freeze to make that happen.
Red Bull wants F1 to freeze the engine homologations at the end of the 2021 season, at which time its engine partner Honda will leave F1.
For 2022 and beyond, Red Bull would then take over Honda’s engines and likely run them with third-party assistance.
Red Bull has made the engine freeze demand on the grounds it doesn’t have the technical and financial resources to develop the Honda product through 2022, but could maintain it.
The matter will be discussed at a meeting of the F1 Commission on Monday after the Portuguese Grand Prix, with Red Bull indicating it will withdraw its two teams Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri without a desirable engine outcome.
Wolff said: “I think Formula 1 is in a good state with three engine suppliers, but if you can keep four [it is better].
“And I totally understand where Red Bull is coming from, they don’t want to go back to a customer status, they want to be a works team.
“They have the capability of tweaking it and maybe optimising it and maybe there is a few things in the pipeline from Honda that are giving them confidence that there is more performance in the engine.
“But I think we should be doing everything to give Red Bull that opportunity.”
Wolff has previously ruled out supplying Red Bull with a Mercedes engine because Mercedes will already have its works team and three customers to take care of.
Red Bull’s alternative is therefore a Ferrari or Renault engine supply, and while a Ferrari deal is unlikely Renault has the capacity to facilitate a reunion and would be required to do so under FIA regulations.
But Red Bull neither wants to be a customer again nor is keen to partner with Renault in particular again after the deterioration of its previous relationship.
It has won multiple races across 2019 and 2020 since switching to Honda and hopes to fight for the title next year when Honda will bring a heavily-upgraded specification.
Wolff said: “I think that for them going back to customers, that status is not something that they are very keen on.
“I truly believe that Honda has done a very good job and I think there is performance in the pipeline that gives Red Bull confidence.
“But equally I understand that they don’t want to go into a spending war with all the other OEMs developing an engine, so it’s a sensible proposal I’d like to support.
“I think Red Bull is a tremendously important brand for Formula 1 and we should do and we should do everything to keep the two teams in Formula 1 and help them with the option of having basically works status.”
Asked by The Race if he was concerned Red Bull was simply trying to force F1’s hand to gets its preferred outcome when it could just be a customer again or accept the cost of developing the Honda engine in 2022, Wolff admitted: “Yeah, they could [be]. They could.
“I think in Formula 1 everybody’s trying to get the best financial deal and performance deal and this is their current position.
“I can live with either outcome. I can live with them taking a customer engine, or help to fund the Honda development programme, or do it on their own. I’m easy with either decision.”