Home race adds to Red Bull's engine headaches

By Eric Willemsen, AP, 24 June 2014
© AP Photo-Hans Klaus Techt

Red Bull's headache after the Austrian Grand Prix is much worse than the ordinary hangover following a home party.

The team's own track in Spielberg has brought no change of fortune for the all-conquering Formula One champions of the past four seasons, with Sebastian Vettel suffering an engine breakdown in the opening lap before failing to finish and Daniel Ricciardo coming in eighth.

Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung proclaimed on Monday: "World champions' home race becomes a tragedy" while the daily Kurier stated: "Debacle at home: Red Bull sapless."

Team principal Christian Horner, meanwhile, renewed his criticism of engine supplier Renault, this time calling their failure to improve unacceptable.

"The situation just isn't improving," Horner said after the race. "The reliability is unacceptable. The performance is unacceptable. There needs to be a change at Renault. It can't continue like this."

Red Bull will stick with its French partner for the 2015 season as well but says it will consider its options after that.

However, Horner also acknowledged that Renault deserves some credit.

Red Bull has won all eight F1 drivers' and teams' championships from 2010-13 with Renault. And Red Bull is the only team other than Mercedes to win a race this season after Ricciardo's maiden victory at the Canadian GP in Montreal two weeks ago.

The Austrian GP proved yet again that Mercedes has best managed this season's transition to the 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid engines.

Eight drivers in Sunday's top 10 used a car with a Mercedes-built engine. Ricciardo's eighth place was the best for Renault, which is also supplying Red Bull's second team, Toro Rosso, as well as Caterham and Lotus.

Red Bull is still runner-up to the dominant leaders in the team's standings, though the 158-point gap to Mercedes seems all but insurmountable even with 11 races still to come.

RENAULT CRITICISM

With the regulatory stop on further development of engines during a Formula One season, Renault's options to solve the problems are limited.

So what's the alternative for Red Bull?

Being rivals for the championship, Mercedes and Ferrari are highly unlikely to become partners, while Honda is returning to F1 on an exclusive deal with McLaren.

Could it lead to Red Bull ending up building its own engine?

The company's motorsport chief Helmut Marko doesn't rule out that option right away.

"We'll see. What can we achieve with the (Renault) engine?" Marko said. "If we don't see a possibility to be on the same level like Mercedes then we have to look forward to other things."

Red Bull is already cooperating with several companies, including Austrian manufacturer APC, which delivers its current turbocharger and could help them build an engine in-house.

"We have a lot of very skilled companies concerning engines," Marko said. "You should never say no. We're looking into all alternatives."

Horner, however, was reluctant to discuss the possibility of a self-built engine to help Red Bull get back on track.

"It's not something we want to do," Horner said. "It's not a key part of Red Bull's philosophy."

Horner might be right, as the energy drink company owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who reportedly invested 200 million euros ($270 million) in renewing the Red Bull Ring to make it suitable for F1 again, confirmed to the Austria Press Agency.

"We are not car manufacturers," Mateschitz said. "It's not our prime competence to build engines."

 

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