There are increasing signs that Red Bull’s attempt to get Mercedes engines for 2016 is likely to fail, despite strong lobbying from the drinks company.
Bernie Ecclestone has been pushing for it to happen as he wants RBR to be a competitive force, but Toto Wolff has been admanant all along that there were many downside to such a deal – most notably the very obvious one of handing the best power unit in the paddock to the one team with arguably a stronger chassis and aero department than Mercedes itself has.
In addition there has long been a frosty relationship between Mercedes and Red Bull, and two have always been in rival camps in the DTM, for example. The Mercedes management is known to have been furious when Red Bull jumped ship and signed up with Bernie Ecclestone after the last Concorde Agreement ended.
Daimler/Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche is assumed to have the final call, but asked by this writer in Monza about the prospects for a deal he would only say: “I have not got an official request for the engine so there’s no need for any official comment.”
If Mercedes has made a final decision Red Bull’s only alternative to Renault is to return to Ferrari, renewing a partnership that last just one season in 2006 before the Italian engines were passed to Toro Rosso.
Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne announced to the media in Austria in June that Ferrari would be willing to supply Red Bull.
“It’s in our DNA, we’ve done it before,” said Marchionne. “I think we can provide engines to any of the teams that want to race. As long as we keep control over the aerodynamic work on the car, I think there’s going to be enough distinguishing traits between us and the competition. We are more than glad to try and provide a level playing field, now that the engine is there.
“I talk to everybody. And I have a lot of respect for Red Bull. I think they’ve done a lot for the sport, they’ve had the world championship for a number of years. I think they will find their way again and if we can help them get there, we’d be more than glad to do it.”
Meanwhile it had been widely expected that if RBR went with Mercedes then Toro Rosso would go back to Ferrari, having used the Italian engines in 2007-13. With Haas coming on board it remains to be seen whether Ferrari would have the capacity to add both RBR and STR to its list of customers, but a possible move by Manor to Mercedes would potentially help.
“As you know we have a Renault contract, the rest we will see,” Franz Tost told this writer. “We have a good relationship with Ferrari, but this does not mean that we will be partners in the future. We will see, the future will show us. Currently we are contracted to Renault.”