Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has offered Christian Horner rare support in Red Bull's current predicament over its future power unit supplier.
Red Bull is currently researching its options after Honda recently announced it would no longer supply systems to it and sister team Alpha Tauri at the end of next season.
Under the FIA regulations, Renault has an obligation to supply to ensure neither Red Bull-backed team is forced out of Formula 1. It is understood, however, there is no appetite on either side to renew the partnership given the acrimonious ending of their past relationship.
Instead, Horner is keen to take on Honda's engine programme but has called for a freeze on development from 2022 until the new power units are introduced from 2026 - potentially earlier - to save on costs.
"Under the right circumstances then we potentially have an appetite to take on that challenge if an agreement can be found, with the blessing of Honda," said Horner.
"But it would be absolutely contingent upon the necessity to spend being dramatically reduced on the power units because it's just astronomical numbers.
"So it would be absolutely dependent on a freeze of this current engine, probably from the end of the 2021 season until the introduction of the new engine.
"If they want to bring that new engine forward then fine, but under the current regs, with the challenges we face, and Formula 1 faces, the only way for us to contemplate taking on that challenge would have to be under those circumstances."
Given Wolff and Horner have rarely seen eye to eye on many topics over the years, the Austrian has surprisingly come out in favour of the latter's proposal.
Asked whether he would be happy for an engine freeze, as suggested by Horner, he replied: "Yes. I think Formula 1 is in a good state with three engine suppliers, but if we can keep four...
"I totally understand where Red Bull is coming from, They don't want to go back to customer status, they want to be a works team.
"They have the capability of tweaking it [the current PU], maybe optimising it, and maybe there are a few things in the pipeline from Honda that are giving them confidence there is more performance in the engine.
"But I think we should be doing everything to give Red Bull that opportunity."
As to why he was being so unusually conciliatory, he added: "For them, going back to a customer spec status is not something they are very keen on.
"I truly believe Honda has done a very good job and there is performance in the pipeline that gives Red Bull confidence.
"But equally I understand they don't want to go into a spending war with all the other OEMs in developing engines. It's a sensible proposal, and I'd like to support.
"I think Red Bull is a tremendously important brand in Formula 1, and we should do everything to keep the two teams in Formula 1 and help them with the option of basically having works status."
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