Red Bull F1 Has Engine Plan After Honda’s Exit in 2021, But There’s a Catch

Red Bull continues to move closer to agreeing to run its own Honda engines in Formula 1 for 2022 and beyond.

Red Bull is saying it can take over the Honda IP and operations following the Japanese manufacturer’s departure from Formula 1 after the 2021 season, but only if the other manufacturers agree to a 2022 engine development freeze.

Ferrari has already agreed.

“We understand (Red Bull’s) intention to keep using their Honda engine for the future,” Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said on Friday. “We had meetings in the last days with F1 and the FIA. I think as Ferrari, we understand the situation. We are somehow supportive in trying to anticipate by one season, one year, the freezing of the engines.

“To have a brand new format of power unit in 2025, we would need to have by the middle of next year clarity on the regulations. I think it will be quite a different power unit to today, because there, at least from a Ferrari point of view, there are important objectives that need to be set, as for example quite a different cost. It has to be more sustainable from a cost point of view, so I think the power unit itself should cost 50% more of less of what we are affording today and in order to achieve that I think it will be in order to decide what will be the technical format it is somehow a very difficult exercise.”

Binotto also said that if engines are frozen for 2022, there should be “a mechanism of engine convergence,” meaning that under-performing engines can be brought closer to the leaders’ pace.

Red Bull’s Christian Horner welcomed the news that Ferrari is now on board.

“I think all the major leaders in the automotive industry—the heads of the carmakers—recognize that investing in developing these existing engines is not rational when all new technologies are coming in for 2025 or 2026,” Horner said. “I think for Renault, too, it would also be logical to agree with this, but we’ll see. What is encouraging is that Ferrari are ready to support our position.”

As for Renault, technical boss Marcin Budkowski said the French marque actually pushed for a 2022 engine freeze prior to Honda’s decision to quit F1—and Red Bull-Honda rejected it.

“It’s quite interesting that now Red Bull is very much in favor of a freeze,” he said. “We’re not opposed to it as long as it has the correct timeline. Whether that’s mid-’22, or end of ’22, that’s to be discussed, but it’s a position we’ve always defended. We can’t say we’re going to freeze from ’21, it’s too late for that and we’ve invested time and effort in a new specification of engine.

“But we are happy to find a compromise and do the right thing for the sport as long as it’s reasonable.”

Cost, according to Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner, is at the forefront. Haas is a power unit customer of Ferrari.

“I wouldn’t call it cheaper,” Steiner said. “I think we need to make it more efficient, not as an engine but cost-wise. I think part of the new regulation, there needs to be a financial regulation, how much they can cost and that is not for me to decide how much it is because we don’t make engines so it’s more for the manufacturers who know how much it costs to develop this engine but for us, as a customer, it is important to be sustainable.

“If we can get the engine costs down, that makes sure that all the teams stay around because the engine cost is a big part of our budget at the moment. I understand the manufacturers cannot subsidize but I think they do already by swallowing all the development costs for the engines but they cannot subsidize the production of the engines and that’s why they need to give us the cost of it, so very important.”

Autoweek’s Mike Pryson contributed to this report.

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