Christian Horner has cast fresh doubt over Red Bull’s Formula One future beyond this year as their relationship with engine supplier Renault heads for the scrapheap.
Red Bull, powered by the French manufacturer, won four consecutive driver and constructors’ championships between 2010 and 2013, but have failed to win a race in more than a year and have finished on the podium just twice this term. The British-based team have a contract with Renault for next year, but it appears unlikely their fractured partnership will last beyond this season.
Mercedes will not supply Red Bull with an engine in 2016, which appears to leave Ferrari as the team’s only viable option. Red Bull’s outspoken Austrian owner Dietrich Mateschitz has already said his team will withdraw from the sport if they fail to find a competitive engine supplier. Speaking ahead of this week’s Singapore Grand Prix, his comments were echoed by Horner.
“You can clearly see that there are two competitive power units in Formula One and you do not have to be a rocket scientist to work out which two those are,” Horner said.
“It is quite clear that one of those will not supply us with an engine, so that leaves really only one option and if that option is not available then you have got to question – as Dietrich made clear earlier in the year – he wants to race with a competitive engine or we won’t have an engine.”
Asked if that meant Red Bull would not be on the grid, Horner replied: “It is a risk, and it is a risk that should not be underestimated. If we have no engine, you cannot push the car.
“There needs to be some sort of grown-up decisions made about the situation that we are in and I am sure things will become clear in a few weeks.”
Renault’s chairman and chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn said earlier this week it was “renegotiating” its deal with Red Bull which expires at the end of next season, but their partnership appears beyond repair.
Red Bull have been fiercely critical of Renault and are on course to finish only fourth in this season’s championship which will see them lose out on an estimated £13 million in prize money.
Horner added: “You have to consider the loss in revenue through dropping down the order, which is quite enormous. The most important thing for us is to have a competitive power unit and whilst that may have a short-term impact, the longer-term gain far outweighs that.
“We have to see what Renault’s clear plan is and we have to have those discussions with Renault. As we sit here we have a contract until the end of 2016.
“Unfortunately what we have seen within the new regulations is that Renault has dropped behind, and as a customer if you’re with any other product and that product is not working, you change it. We have been as patient as we can but we cannot afford for there to be further damage through a lack of competitiveness.”
Lotus, meanwhile, has won a seven-day breathing space in insolvency proceedings brought against it by the taxman.
Mr Justice Birss at London’s High Court said that it would be the last time he would grant an adjournment of a bid by HM Revenue & Customs to have the Formula One team put into administration.
HMRC issued its application in August over £900,000 outstanding in respect of PAYE (income tax and national insurance) for June 2015.
Since then, while negotiations have been continuing to save the team, which is based in Enstone, Oxfordshire, a similar debt had accrued for July with another due shortly for August.
Lawyers for HMRC told the judge today that a further adjournment was not appropriate as, while Lotus’s drivers, employees and mechanics were being paid, HMRC had still not received payment.
Lotus, which is reported to be in talks with Renault, had argued that, if the administration order was made today, the company would cease to trade, which would not be in the interest of creditors and would cost 400 jobs.
Granting the adjournment, the judge said: “The parties have satisfied me that that there is genuinely a real prospect that the first stage of the deal that is being described will be signed in the next seven days which will allow significant funding to go into the company.”