Reading Matt Smith’s article at Reuters regarding Red Bull Racing being forced out of Formula 1, you have to put your bias aside to really get a feel for what legendary car designer Adrian Newey is saying.
You have to set aside your thoughts about how they handled their Renault relationship or how they are “whinging” about not winning and really look beyond those surface tensions to understand their point of view.
In essence, you have an engine regulation that is killing F1 with costs and frozen development causing a disparity in performance and an inability to make meaningful development gains against a single team which in this case happens to be Mercedes.
Ferrari have done the best job of closing the gap but according to James Allison, they are only half way there and need to replicate their 2015 gains in 2016 to get anywhere close to Mercedes. You have to also consider that the FIA have also locked down the aerodynamic freedom making this specification more dependent on the engine and creative aero incapable of making up the deficit that Renault, Honda or Ferrari currently have.
Given this stark reality, the FIA have refused to get involved and this leaves only two engines that can run somewhat close to each other…Mercedes and Ferrari. Neither company will supply engines to Red Bull Racing (RBR) because they fear that running the same engines will give RBR an opportunity to actually beat the works team given Newey’s genius and RBR’s resources. Newey told Baldwin:
“Within the regulations, the engines can be balanced somewhat so that there’s less of a performance disparity then there is at the moment, but the FIA has been unwilling to do this,” he said.
“We need to get back to the position where all teams have access to an engine which is there or thereabouts — if it’s a couple of percent behind then okay, but when it’s 10 percent behind it’s too big a gap,” said Newey.
“As an engineer, I’d liked to see more flexibility in the chassis regulations so that teams can find benefit through ingenuity and creativity.”
Here he is speaking to the inability to creatively work your way out of an engine deficit with aerodynamics. It has been a regulation clamp down that could be the impetus for Newey’s reduced role in RBR’s F1 program due to lack of interest.
It’s a draconian world in F1 and I do believe that series boss, Bernie Ecclestone, has been working hard on this issue to keep RBR in the sport but Newey feels that the rivals could be literally forcing them out of the sport:
“We’re possibly going to be forced out of Formula One — Mercedes and Ferrari have refused to supply us out of fear,”
He may be right. The rivals know they have a major player in RBR and their departure would leave less well-funded competition for them. RBR did just win four titles on the trot and given their resources and the genius of Newey, their rivals are right to fear the capabilities of this team given a strong engine. With a Mercedes engine, there is every chance RBR would be fighting for another title.
This also leaves a possibility of poaching which is never nice. If RBR is still unclear on what they will do in 2016, employees at the team have to think about their future and I would guess that the paddock is ripe with offers for key personnel at the team to leave due to this uncertainty. Consider what Newey’s future holds and who may interested in luring him away from a defunct F1 team.
Could this be a case of systematically using RBR’s situation, some of it self-created, to collapse the F1 racing juggernaut and loot it’s coffers? Who knows but I wouldn’t put it past anyone in F1.
Will F1 survive without RBR? I am sure it will but if I’m honest, these engines are technically speaking, amazing pieces of engineering but they are killing this sport through costs, development restrictions and a complete lack of parity.
Look at it this way, HRT, Caterham and Manor were all put in administration over these new engines and Sauber as well as Force India are clinging to life support and while we were all concerned over these engine regulations hurting the small teams, it seems the power unit now has to opportunity to kill one of the sports biggest investors and players as well as 4-time title winners. Regardless of how you feel about RBR, that’s a horrible situation for the sport to be in.
I have a lot of time for the privateers such as McLaren, Williams, Sauber, Force India and chiefly RBR because of their total investment in the series including the Austrian GP. This is a dire situation and I am gutted that we have come to this point.
Hat Tip: Reuters