Red Bull set to take over Viry and design new engine for 2016?

Rumours to the effect that Renault could be planning to sell its F1 engine department in Viry come at exactly the same time as suggestions from Helmut Marko that Red Bull wants to do its own thing on the power unit front – and it’s not hard to tie the two together.

Sources suggest that rather than attempt to start its own engine operation from scratch there are plans for Red Bull to take control of the Viry operation, although whether that would involve an outright purchase of the facility in the short term is not yet clear.

It’s worth noting that Dr Marko has been spending a lot of time at Viry recently. The suggestion is that Caterham boss Cyril Abiteboul, respected by Red Bull and previously a leading light at Viry as Deputy Managing Director of Renault Sport F1, might return to oversee any restructuring.

With Renault’s agreement Red Bull would introduce its own systems and key personnel in an attempt to improve the current power unit within the homologation rules for 2015. It would then use the Viry facilities to build a new unit to a Red Bull design for use in 2016 and beyond.

If that happens it could transform the future prospects of Red Bull Racing and help the team to hang on to the frustrated Sebastian Vettel.

On Sunday in Austria Christian Horner hinted at a restructuring at Viry: “There needs to be change at Renault, because it can’t continue like this. It’s not good for Renault, it’s not good for Red Bull. We need to work together as partners – there will not be another engine in the back of the car next year. We want to be competitive, we want to run at the front, and these kinds of issues can’t and shouldn’t happen.

“Something needs to happen, because whatever’s being done there is not working at the moment. It’s not our business, it’s not our responsibility, we’re the end user. It’s just frustrating that the product is just not working at the moment.”

As Horner noted, Red Bull is committed to using the current Renault engine next year. While the immediate priority will be to take full advantage of the FIA’s winter update window, the intention is to abandon the currently homologated engine and start afresh using all the knowledge gained by Renault and Red Bull in recent months, and from observations of the route Mercedes has taken.

A brand new power unit – perhaps badged as a Red Bull or Infiniti – could then be homologated for 2016. In theory it would be several steps ahead of what the regulations would allow Renault to update should the company simply continue with the current unit.

This new engine would not be designed by the team that produced the current Renault, but will instead be a product of the new Red Bull technology centre, which will be overseen by Adrian Newey. His old pal and Ilmor founder Mario Ilien is expected be part of the process, and it won’t be hard to draw on ex-Mercedes/Cosworth personnel in the Milton Keynes/Northampton area.

Mercedes and Ferrari clearly won’t be happy at the idea of Renault/Viry having this opportunity to in effect by-pass the homologation rules and enjoy a second chance build a V6 turbo power unit, even if is badged with a different name.

However, the key thing as far as the FIA is concerned is that Red Bull would own the IP of the new engine, and it would not be seen as a second attempt by Renault.

While this would be an expensive exercise, the drinks company is already paying two substantial power unit bills each year for RBR and Toro Rosso, and simply adding those figures together represents a good starting point for the budget required.

In addition sources say that Red Bull (and in particular Dr Marko) has been paying close attention lately to the future of Caterham, which is expected to announce a restructuring in the near future. The team is already a customer for the Red Bull gearbox, and it would be natural for the deal to be extended to cover a power unit package as well, which would provide further income to offset Red Bull’s costs. Caterham would be even more closely allied to Red Bull than it is now, as a ‘friendly’ third team.

With the more influential Lotus now expected to defect to Mercedes (see yesterday’s story) it would be much easier for Red Bull to have control of Viry. However, there could still be a fourth paying customer in the form of the new Romanian team, FRR.

The loss of Renault identity would suit Infiniti, which is keen to distance itself from the Renault name, which does not have the high-end associations it desires. Indeed Infiniti could help Red Bull to ultimately buy Viry or even, in a bit of intra company corporate business, take it over from Renault.

Some of the details are yet to emerge, but sources suggest that the scenario as explained above is a realistic one. Having said that when I asked Horner on Sunday if it was possible for Red Bull to do its own engine, he said: “It’s highly improbable. First of all we need to see what the plans of Renault are. Obviously a team like Red Bull isn’t short of choices, but we want to make sure that we’re competitive for the long term. Obviously designing and manufacturing our own engine currently isn’t part of our plan.”

It could be argued that he didn’t deny that someone else could manufacture it on Red Bull’s behalf. Indeed when I asked Christian if it would be possible under the rules for Viry to build a new engine for Red Bull, badged as something else, he simply smiled and said he believed it was…

18 Comments

Filed under F1 News, Grand Prix News

18 responses to “Red Bull set to take over Viry and design new engine for 2016?

  1. Mick

    When I saw the rumours at the weekend about a Red Bull engine my first thought was that this could be a route around the homologation rules and that seems to be the case. I don’t object to it but it does seem to make a bit of a mockery of the engine development rules.

    I always thought setting deadlines for development freezes before the engines had even been introduced & made reliable seemed bizarre. All of the manufacturers should be given 3 years of free development.

    I do think F1 costs need to be reigned in but doing it too soon on the engines isn’t the way to go.

    I’d limit aero spending by limiting the number of times per year the aero package can be changed. A new front wing design (or two) at every race costs fortunes & does nothing for the fans. Teams should start the year with maybe 4 packages (high & low downforce, high & low temperatures) and be allowed to re-design them a max of 4 times a season.

  2. Christy

    A long and hard way Red Bull is planning. Takes 3 or 4 years to have that comeout powerunit they expected for them. Why not a Mercedes Unit…can’t not understand this absurd plan.

  3. Olivier

    I find this rumor hard to believe. If you are going to make the investment in buying an engine facility it would make much more sense to have it located not far or within you current chassis factory. Mercedes is a good example and so is Ferrari. Honda is even setting up shop (very near RB). Why would RB who are based in England invest in a Viry that is located in France? Full integration between chassis and engine is now the key to winning in F1.
    Renault and Ferrari need to demand that the current engine freeze be lifted this season to allow them to make upgrades. How could they accept the engines to be homologated this season which such new technology??? It makes no sense. FIA at its best… The added bad press Renault is getting from RB is making things even worse. Why is Rob White still employed at Viry???

  4. Stone the Crows

    Good call Adam, you saw where RBR was going with this. Brilliant if it works out, because they can take what they’ve learned this year, improve the 2015 package and then do so again for 2016 with a package under a new brand. Bad news is, that assuming Red Bull has some longevity as a team they’ll inevitably be in the same situation as Ferrari, i.e., your engine and driveline is yours, you can’t switch to Mercedes if things are working out.

  5. ronmon

    So will the Infiniti Red Bull-Infiniti be running against the F500 Ferrari-Fiat in 2016?

  6. Toni JJ

    hhmm, why not use the Honda engine in 2016? Just, maybe the engine badge is to be named Infiniti. Infiniti RBR racing in WEC in 2017? 250,000 people turned out at Le Man in 2014. The fans and viewers are increasing for WEC while the opposite is true for F1. The FIA has to scrap the engine freeze regulation and let Ferrari and RB catch up.

    • Infiniti is Nissan, Honda is Honda…! That’s not going to happen while Infiniti is their main sponsor, and a very valuable one.

    • anon

      The first issue is that Honda have made it clear they will be focussed around McLaren.
      It would be a bit like, for example, the situation Lotus are in right now with Renault – they are a customer with limited influence over the design of the engine, which is mainly dictated by the works outfit (Red Bull in the case of Renault). Ultimately, Red Bull would have to shape their car around Honda and McLaren’s way of thinking, whereas right now they have greater influence on Renault over the design philosophy.

      Secondly, there is the issue that we have no idea how competitive Honda can be – it could well be that the Honda engine is worse than the Renault powertrain, since Honda is at least one year behind in terms of development.

      As an aside, there is a caveat in your attendance figure for Le Mans – it should be noted that the claimed attendance figure for the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans was 263,000 over the race weekend. In other words, that figure adds up all of the spectators from the practise sessions, qualifying and the race itself into a single total.
      Therefore, there is the caveat that you are getting the attendance figures across four days, which will inevitably be higher than the race itself – furthermore, Le Mans is a bit of a statistical anomaly compared the remaining WEC races, where attendance figures are usually much lower.

      For example, the official attendance was 43,000 for the 2014 6 Hours of Silverstone – up from the 2012 attendance of 35,000 (it seems they didn’t release figures for 2013) but, even so, it’s worth noting that national series like the BTCC have similar, or even fractionally higher, attendance figures than the WEC.
      Interest in the main event – the 24 Hours of Le Mans – may be higher than in the past, but the indication is that is not yet translating into a significant increase interest in the other events that make up the WEC calendar.

      • Christy

        I still stay with my meaning that Red Bull can go the best way with Mercedes. With Renault is no option until the next 2 years. Because they have to build a new engine. And with engineers from Cossworth, sorry that is Fantastic Voyage, but not Formula One.

      • Red Bull and Mercedes do not do business together. It’s that simple.

      • Christy

        But to build their own engine, it need’s more than two years, cause everything must be reliable. I think it is not possible.But to make Business with Mercedes or maybe with Honda? is better. Renault, i stay with that os no more option.And Seb want to race for the Championship and not in the Midfield with Problems in every race. Than he leave the Team, if there is no success next season.

  7. GeorgeK

    One last thought on this latest Red Bull maneuver. When the French GP was still running I seem to remember scathing attacks by the Red Bull PR department against all things french; and I seem to further recall that the reason was Red Bull beverages were banned from France.

    Can anyone verify this, and is it still the same?

    If “yes” maybe RB’s strategy is to threaten moving the entire engine facility to England near the team, with the sole intent of obtaining sales approval for RB in France.

    Far fetched, I know, but we’ve all seen stranger things than this in life. AND RB are marketing geniuses!

    I will now unplug my tin foil hat🙂

  8. Chris

    Renault & Nissan (owners of Infiniti) effectively own each other and share technology, engineering & management. Mercedes also have an alliance with those 2.
    My understanding is also that no engine manufacturer can supply more than 4 teams.
    Conceivably the Renault engine could be rebadged Infiniti, but I can’t see RedBull-Infiniti with a Merc power unit.
    I did wonder what would happen if 1 PU was superior to the others, & homogenisation meant no meaningful changes where possible. They should have allowed at least 1 year of changes to even up the PU’s.
    Lastly, standing restarts are a complete joke. Currently the laps tick down and cars save fuel which makes for a hugely energetic restart and usually exciting racing to the end.
    Bring back refuelling, stickier tyres and reduce wake by mandating maximum turbulence behind each car.

    • anon

      Firstly, what value would bringing back refuelling have? It’s not exactly a vital aspect of the sport, and the original implementation of refuelling was as an artificial means of trying to liven up the sport.
      As for ‘stickier tyres’ – stickier than what? And how exactly would that be balanced against factors like tyre life, since there is a strong likelihood of a rise in tyre wear as a result.

      As for the final point – please, I do not mean to cause any offence here, but saying “reduce wake by mandating maximum turbulence” is an utterly meaningless sentence.
      Turbulent flows are inherently chaotic and turbulence as a phenomenon is still very poorly understood (for example, we still do not have a full theoretical understanding of the Navier Stokes equation – the cornerstone of fluid dynamics – more than 160 years after it was first formulated). Being able to accurately quantify and model turbulent flow would entail solving one of the greatest problems in physics – trying to place some sort of rigid value on a turbulent wake is utterly meaningless due to the very physical nature of turbulence.

      • Christy

        Formula One is on a critical situatiion all over. I don’t know what the future brings with the new engine. Maybe he will named Infiniti, so far the plan can be until 2016. This morning i read, the Renault engine 2014 is closed of development. So let’s wait what Red Bull will answer on this to Renault or to the FIA Regulations. It’ frustrasing i think what is going on at the Formula One so far.

  9. AJ

    I hope they sort out the power unit disparities, F1 seems to be on a self destruct course for a while. I have given up on F1, my golden years were the 80’s and 90’s (pre Imola 94).

    These days, far too many artificial restrictions :- double points, nanny state with pit lane determining drivers pace and strategy, driver incident reviews, retiring cars to save the engine, tyre management, engine homogenization restrictions (which is very short sighted considering this is year 1 of the turbos)…

    • Stefan

      Well, the Glory is gone at Red Bull Racing. To develop a brand new power unit exept Renault engieering is a high risc and a long hard and stony way back to be able driving for the construcrors and drivers championchip in F1.

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