You could certainly see that all four wheels were coming off the Red Bull Racing / Renault relationship by the end of 2015. The lack of a competitive and reliable engine left Red Bull facing a serious issue coming off four world titles on the trot and the new regulations had delivered them a power unit woefully inadequate for the job in 2014 and even worse in 2015.
When Red Bull began putting pressure publicly on Renault and eventually trying to find another engine supplier or they might leave F1, many fans were dismissive telling the team to not let the door hit them in the a**on the way out of Formula 1.
I argued very strongly for Red Bull because the ridiculous hybrid power unit regulations with very stringent development token system was safe-guarding and prolonging the clear baked-in advantage that Mercedes had over the entire field. I also argued that a team who spends the kind of money that Red Bull does in F1 shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed with recent comments from team brain, Adrian Newey, when he said they publicly put pressure on Renault to deliver. Horner told Autosport:
“We’d had several conversations, we’d been to Paris, we’d seen [then Renault CEO] Carlos Ghosn, we’d presented what our concerns were,” said Horner.
“By 2015, when the engine was arguably worse than it was in ’14, then frustration boiled over to the point that it was like, ‘OK, if we are more open about what our frustrations are, maybe it will force a reaction’.
“Cyril came back into the full brunt of it. It was one of things that you try every mechanism that you can to try to generate competitiveness.
“At that time it was felt that maybe Renault couldn’t possibly afford the embarrassment of these engines not being competitive and not being reliable and not delivering.
“Unfortunately it didn’t work.”
Red Bull was denied an engine supply by Mercedes and Ferrari and had no choice but to remain with Renault so they took matters into their own hands, re-badged the power unit a TAG and trundled on until they eventually left the relationship to link arms with Honda who had just been kicked to the curb by a struggling McLaren.
You see, Honda wasn’t able to join F1—albeit a year late—and make any ground on Mercedes. They have made significant strides but still not at a level of Mercedes. Renault has been there from the start and joined Mercedes in threatening the sport if it didn’t move to “road-relevant” hybrid technology. They still haven’t reached parity with Mercedes and in fact, look worse this year than last.
There is no doubt in mind that Red Bull are demanding and to win at that level, you have to be. Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul’s says that Red Bull’s success is down to Renault.
“Communication is part of this world, it’s part of Formula 1, it’s part of your strategy and your tactics.
“It’s not the first team and it’s not the last team to use all the weaponry of this world, and frankly you guys [the media], to influence what is going on.
“I was reading yesterday that Max [Verstappen] is happy to take an engine penalty – amazing!
“That’s part of this world, but I don’t want to lose sight of the fact, and I would concur with Christian in relation to that, our engine was not at the required level in 2014 and ’15.
“There are mitigating circumstances. You know, we were extremely happy and Renault has contributed to making Red Bull what it is today by winning four championships in a row.
“From a financial perspective with sponsors, from a technology perspective with talent, recruitment, Red Bull is what it is today thanks also to Renault.”
If I were Christian Horner, I’d say that Renault are where they are today because of Renault too. And so Are Red Bull—using Honda. The point is, Red Bull are demanding and they are working with Honda to deliver the power they need. This is the first season together and they are still running third. Renault have sank much lower in 2019 but in fairness, McLaren are using Renault and running much better than the works team…seemingly.
The reality is that Red Bull’s chassis is a class act, Max Verstappen is a top-shelf driver and the team are a first-rate team ran by very sharp individuals. I would be silly not to acknowledge Abiteboul’s comments to a point but I think Red Bull would have gotten there with or without Renault such was the investment commitment and leadership of the team. After they hybrids came out, no other manufacturer was willing to supply them.
What I am more concerned with is the leadership of Renault. They forced Fred Vassuer out and he promptly moved over to Sauber and turned that team around entirely. In fact, Fred’s team is currently beating Renault in the Constructor’s Championship—albeit by a single point.
I understand Cyril’s point but he make be taken liberties with the success Red Bull has had instead of discussing the lack of success they are having in 2019.
Hat Tip: Autosport