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What next for Red Bull after being blindsided by Honda?

What next for Red Bull after being blindsided by Honda?

F1 News

What next for Red Bull after being blindsided by Honda?

What next for Red Bull after being blindsided by Honda?
Ian Parkes & Ewan Gale

The future of Red Bull Racing is again up in the air as it finds itself searching for an engine supplier for the second time in three years following Honda's shock decision to quit Formula 1 at the end of 2021.

The Japanese company confirmed its departure early on Friday, due to its need to shift its resources to future areas of energy development.

After a promising first two years of the Red Bull-Honda partnership, the duo will split at the end of next season. It begs the obvious question, what next for Red Bull?

Time to find someone new

This split is a far cry from the acrimonious and rather public divorce between the same team and Renault in 2018.

There was no infighting here, no bickering. Instead, this was a relationship built upon trust and togetherness. In Russia, team principal Christian Horner refused to lay blame at Honda's doorstep when quizzed about its deficiencies against the all-conquering Mercedes.

Instead, Horner's message was very much a "we need to do better," not a "they need to do better," unlike the kickings Renault was handed whilst in a similar situation.

The partnership has been successful and even staggering considering the situation Honda was in when it was powering McLaren with its engines once derided by Fernando Alonso as being akin to "GP2". The turnaround achieved to provide two teams with a power unit capable of winning grands prix is truly commendable.

"We are enormously proud of our joint success," said Horner. "Delivering five wins and 15 podiums for both Red Bull-owned teams and we thank everyone at Honda for their extraordinary efforts and commitment."

Indeed, Honda is the first manufacturer in the turbo-hybrid era to have scored victories with more than one team after Pierre Gasly's incredible drive at Monza.

It is a clear sign of respect then that Honda has decided to announce its withdrawal a year ahead of the date, giving Horner and co the opportunity to at least get a deal in place for the new era of F1 in 2022

The possibles

Mercedes

A Red Bull switch to the best engines on the grid? How good would that be? Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton could finally have the heavyweight battle at the front of the field we have all eagerly been awaiting.

Of course, as the regulations dictate, Red Bull would have to be provided with identical specification units to the world champions, so it would mean a completely level playing field in terms of power.

Obviously, any battle would come down to the strength of the Red Bull chassis in such an instance but after previous success for Red Bull with their aerodynamic designs, why would Mercedes take the chance?

Even if they wanted to, partnering with Red Bull would add to a quota already consisting of Racing Point - soon to be Aston Martin - Williams and McLaren from next year.

Including itself as a factory team, that takes its total to a supply of four, which negates it from entering into an agreement with either Red Bull or Alpha Tauri as per an appendix within the FIA sporting regulations relating to power units from 2021-2025.

Ferrari and Renault, however, are not so fortunate.

Ferrari

At the moment this also appears to a non-starter for Red Bull. The worst power units currently on the grid are provided by the Scuderia. On multiple occasions this season, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Haas have been left trailing on track simply because of engine performance.

So what could Red Bull hope for? Ferrari certainly has the resources to sort its act out as the biggest team on the grid, and it is already attempting to do so for next season via the application of the token system relating to development.

Would that be enough to sway Horner and owner Dietrich Mateschitz to take a gamble and fit their cars with a Ferrari power unit? Perhaps.

After all, Red Bull was not shy about taking Honda onboard despite the Japanese manufacturer's miserable few seasons with McLaren.

Referring back to those sporting regulations, as Ferrari supplies three teams, under complex rules, it would at least have to offer itself to either Red Bull or AlphaTauri.

As far as Horner is concerned, Ferrari is surely a more attractive prospect than the next possibility...

Renault

Could Red Bull and Renault really unite again? If the way Horner and Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul talk to each other is anything to go by then this deal seems a complete non-starter.

The pair do not get on, primarily due to the way Red Bull constantly slated Renault in public over the final few acrimonious years, and with the French team replying in kind on occasion, resulting in an ugly mess and an eventual divorce.

But there is a way a new era of Red Bull-Renault could, and would, tie-up. Red Bull and Renault have pledged their commitment to F1 with the recent signing of the Concorde Agreement.

Back to those sporting regulations again, that dictates if a team is without an engine supplier, the manufacturer with the least customer teams will be obliged to become the supplier. In that case, the marriage would be forced upon the pair.

The way those regulations are structured, it could be that Red Bull joins forces with Ferrari and AlphaTauri with Renault. Maybe both reunite with Renault.

In reality, Red Bull is now faced with a situation where its hands are tied through no fault of its own. The fact it has a year to think through its options is a bonus and something it will be grateful to Honda for.

But it has lost a vital piece in its chess match with Mercedes and Ferrari - a different power supplier to work with and help in development, as a factory team would.

If this is what the team wants, it will need to hope for a new manufacturer to surprise us all and enter the sport, and there is no sign of that on the horizon.

These are testing times again for Horner, Mateschitz and all at Red Bull, so perhaps there is one other option...

DIY engine

The fourth possibility for Red Bull is to become an engine manufacturer in its own right and develop a unique power unit.

The team, after working so closely with Renault and Honda as the priority team at most points through the past decade, will have drawn enough knowledge to be able to engage in the project.

The engines could be badged, as they were with TAG Heuer previously at the end of its stint with Renault.

Of course, there would be a major shake-up at the factory in order to facilitate such an endeavour, but it is certainly doable and probably the most suited option to attempt a title tilt in the coming years.

Before you go...

Red Bull and AlphaTauri will still get a new PU in 2021 despite Honda exit

Honda to withdraw from F1 at the end of 2021

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