Christian Horner, the Red Bull Racing team principal, expects more manufacturing names to leave Formula One unless changes are made to equalising engine performance. The 36-year-old Englishman was speaking yesterday at the launch of his team's new RB6 car, which has a Renault engine, believed to be largely underpowered when compared to some of their rivals.
And Horner believes more suppliers could withdraw unless the International Automobile Federation (FIA), which govern world motorsport, address the problem of different engine outputs. "The problem with the engine freeze is that you freeze in an advantage," he told autosport.com. "I think the Renault has some good aspects and Renault, when the freeze came, took it a bit more literally than some of the other manufacturers.
"I think there is disparity within engine performance. "On a fair and equitable basis, we rely on the governing body to ensure that you don't have large disparity between engines because the problem is that, as the chassis converge in performance, the engines will become a key performance differentiator, and the idea of freezing the engine was largely to eliminate the performance differential between the engines.
"I think the problem is if you don't allow some development, then you freeze in an advantage for one team or a disadvantage for another. So there has to be a balancing of that, otherwise we will end up with Mercedes-powered cars winning all the races - which I think is not good for F1 - and other manufacturers may choose to leave F1 off the back of that. "The engine isn't supposed to be a key performance differentiator and therefore hopefully the ruling body will balance out somewhat the differences there at the moment."
The RB6, unveiled in Jerez, Spain, showed slight changes from last year's car, with extra length to accommodate more fuel and an exaggerated 'V' on the engine cover. "This car is a limousine," Mark Webber, the team driver, said. "It shows how clever [chief technical officer] Adrian Newey is that a lot of people copied our car [last year]." Sebastian Vettel, who was second in last year's drivers' championship, will test the new Red Bull car for the first time tomorrow. And the German was quick to play down comparisons with countryman Michael Schumacher, who is returning to the sport after a four-year absence.
"I don't care if the press calls me a star. I think there are going to be more rivals than just Michael," said Vettel. * With agencies