Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz has threatened to pull Red Bull out of Formula One as the inequalities between Ferrari, Mercedes, and the smaller teams widen. As reported by Eurosport, Mateschitz told Autosport magazine that Ferrari and Mercedes have become too powerful and are effectively turning Formula One into a two-team sport. The problem stems from the inability of Red Bull to obtain a satisfactory engine for its cars.
“We have the situation right now that the tail waves the dog. The power of Mercedes and Ferrari is not doing good to F1.”
Mateschitz tried unsuccessfully to switch Red Bull from a Renault engine to a “current-spec Mercedes or Ferrari” engine for the 2016 season. Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso — also run by Mateschitz — has got an end-of-2015 spec engine from Ferrari for this year.
“Everything right now is pretty open. We [Red Bull] definitely will not fight for fifth in the next five years. If we don’t get a competitive engine after 2016 we have no choice but to consider our future. F1 is not the Tour de France, and we will for sure not play a supporting cast role.”
Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone and FIA chief Jean Todt support the idea of independent engines in F1, as does Mateschitz. However the idea was “shelved” earlier in 2016 as “part of ongoing discussions between Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda [the engine suppliers] on issues including the obligation to supply customers, and the cost of those deals.”
The notion of Formula One returning to a 2000s Schumacher-era format, where one or two teams dominated almost every race, is not welcomed by Red Bull, Ecclestone, or the other teams. Formula One teams constantly test and improve their cars throughout the season, and it can be difficult to do that when there is rarely a chance to progress during a race.
Last season Red Bull came fourth in the constructors’ championship, with Mercedes and Ferrari coming first and second. Red Bull, with their Renault engines, won the constructors’ from 2010 to 2013. In 2014 major changes were brought in including switching the V8 engines to V6 turbos. Also, in part due to fuel limitation per race, a hybrid addition to the powertrain — the energy recovery system (ERS) — was introduced, which caused a spike in the engine failure rate. Not all manufacturers could cope with the changes, hence Red Bull wanted the opportunity to select their own engines and adjust them as necessary once they are in the car.
Helmut Marko, adviser to Red Bull and head of their driver development program, spoke exclusively to the Formula One website on March 11 and showed that he is just as unhappy about the engine situation as Mateschitz.
“There was…the expectation of an independent engine being introduced into Formula One, which we put a lot of hope in because it would solve all our problems. Unfortunately this independent engine now won’t happen, so in the medium term it is still not clear what will happen to us in the future.None of the meetings on the engine situation has brought any reasonable result for us so far. There is no cost reduction yet, no equalization in engines, and no clear regulations on how an independent team like us can get competitive engines.”
Marko goes on to say that he wants the FIA, which governs all motor racing worldwide as well as F1, to do something about the engine problems.
“Red Bull Racing is a champion team – and by not getting a competitive engine we are massively hindered. And that boils down to a distorted competition, which is very unhealthy situation. That whole thing is done on purpose – at least that is my impression. Of course I can understand the position of Mercedes or Ferrari, but the governing body, the FIA, should react.”
Winter testing for Red Bull and the other Formula One teams began in Spain on February 22. Marko isn’t upbeat about the chances of Red Bull getting on the podium any time soon.
“For the first half of the season I see Mercedes doing one-two finishes as long as they do not screw-up, then I see Ferrari and a tight fight between Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso and Red Bull Racing behind them.”
With Ecclestone, Todt, and even world champion Lewis Hamilton complaining about the state of Formula One at the moment, there might just be enough pressure for the rules to change. It would be an awful shame if F1 were to lose Red Bull.
The 2016 Formula One season kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix from Melbourne on Sunday, March 20, with the qualifying round on Friday and Saturday.
[Photo by Siu Wu/AP Images]