Analysis: Could Red Bull really take on Honda's F1 engines in 2022?

Analysis: could Red Bull compete against Honda engines in 2022?
With Red Bull evaluating life without Honda in Formula 1, its options seem limited with current availability. However, taking responsibility for manufacturing your own engines could be a serious option, albeit at a high cost. LUKE SMITH is exploring what to do next once Red Bull accepts the challenge
Since Honda announced last week that it would be leaving Formula 1 at the end of next year, the focus of its next move has been on Red Bull.
With only three power supply manufacturers slated to go online in 2022 and there is no sign of newcomers joining the battle, options seem limited.
Given Mercedes and Ferrari's uncertainty about supplying Red Bull in 2015, Honda's exit meant Renault - the very team Red Bull was desperate to part with five years ago - was the most obvious option for the future.
But there was also an alternative that did not include any of the three remaining engine suppliers: Red Bull was to take over the development of the Honda engine itself after 2021.
Team boss Christian Horner said repeatedly on Friday when asked about the next step by Red Bull that it had to "consider all options", but that it was clear that it could not simply act as a "standard customer team".
"The team's expectations are extremely high: they want to win, they want to compete and win world championships," said Horner.
"We need to take the time to do our due diligence on the options we have to complete our thinking, certainly by the end of the season and definitely by the end of the year.
"We have to consider all options and then make decisions."
Analysis: could Red Bull compete against Honda engines in 2022?
When asked directly how practical a continuation of Honda's engine project through Red Bull could be, Horner highlighted the enormous cost of the current engine regulations in Formula 1.
"If you look at the cost of supplying engines, they're enormous, and that's why Formula 1 failed in its attempt to attract new engine suppliers and new manufacturers to the sport," said Horner.
"It brings these costs, these cost drivers into focus through the regulations. Honda's withdrawal is a real disgrace for Formula 1, but also a real wake-up call."
PLUS: Why Honda's recent Formula 1 exit means he may never come back
The broader question of what future regulations for F1 engines will look like is being considered by all of the series’s major players, but does little to improve Red Bull’s situation in the short term. From today's perspective, there won't be a new set of rules for engines until 2026, which means that Red Bull has a period of four seasons ahead of them.
Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has always emphasized how important it is to reduce engine costs in Formula 1. Swallowing that yourself and starting an engine program would be a significant U-turn
Toto Wolff confirmed Friday that Mercedes would not be interested in a delivery from Red Bull, and although both Ferrari and Renault were more cautious, they were barely ready.
Both Wolff and Renault counterpart Cyril Abiteboul doubted that Red Bull would be dependent on the existing power plant suppliers. "I have no doubt that Helmut [Marko] will have a plan B," said Wolff. Abiteboul added that he believed Renault was "very far down the pecking order before they call us again".
Could this Plan B mark a new engine project funded by Red Bull?
Honda F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto said Friday at the Nürburgring that the Milton Keynes base was a "blank board" for engine operation and Red Bull would show interest, but added: "Nothing has been decided at the moment. "
Analysis: could Red Bull compete against Honda engines in 2022?
Speaking of the fighting spirit exhibited at Honda's Sakura base in Japan and Milton Keynes, Horner said simply that "there have been no formal discussions about taking over the engine project".
Acquiring the Honda drivetrain business would be a huge undertaking for Red Bull, especially at a time when F1 is on the lookout for budget cuts. Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has always emphasized the importance of reducing engine costs in Formula 1. Swallowing that yourself and starting an engine program would be a significant U-turn.
The Mercedes engine plant in Brixworth currently employs around 700 people, divided between the F1, Formula E and Project One programs. From 2021, Mercedes will supply three customer teams in addition to its own F1 plant.
Though Red Bull might not be operating at quite the same level as Mercedes if it were to take over the engine program from Honda - in theory just for itself and sister team AlphaTauri - and likely work with a specialized engine partner like Mugen to help develop the addition a substantial contribution would still be required to his existing commitment to Formula 1 through his teams.
But there is at least time for Red Bull to weigh such a consideration, with around 18 months remaining until the start of the 2022 season.
PLUS: What's next for Red Bull after Honda's shock F1 exit?
"We see in this sport that sometimes the inexplicable can happen and it is our duty to examine what is the most competitive path in 2022," said Horner.
"We have the time, Honda has given us that time. If they had made that decision in the spring of next year or in the fall of next year, it would have been a far worse scenario for us.
"We're only in the middle of our relationship with Honda and we've achieved a lot in the time we've been together. We want to achieve a lot more in the remaining time we have together, and of course there is." bigger questions that need to be answered by the end of the year. "
Analysis: could Red Bull compete against Honda engines in 2022?
However, in all of Horner's news about Red Bull's future plans, there have been concerns about where F1 is currently with its engine formula and whether it needs to speed up plans to cut costs and make them more attractive to new manufacturers.
"I think we really have to consider whether 2026 is too far away to introduce a new engine." Thought Horner. "What will this technology be? What should it be?
"These are questions that need to be answered quickly in order to create a roadmap for the future of sport."
PLUS: Why Honda's F1 exit doesn't force an F1 hybrid U-turn
Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul has also called for this rethinking. He suggests that a group of experts come together to discuss what the next generation of F1 engines will look like. McLaren's Andreas Seidl - formerly Porsche boss when he was considering an F1 entry - also emphasized the importance of the presentation of the future direction as well as the problems related to the cost and complexity of the current engines.
These are questions Red Bull wants the answers to before deciding on the engine's future option.
"We will take the time to discuss with the manufacturers, to discuss with the FIA ​​and to discuss with Liberty what their thoughts are for the future," said Horner.
"It is bad news for the sport that a manufacturer like Honda has withdrawn for these reasons."
Analysis: could Red Bull compete against Honda engines in 2022?
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