‘Sit up and take notice’: F1 without Red Bull increasingly a realistic future

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz is 'somewhat disillusioned with F1 at the moment' says team principal Christian Horner, and the threat of a pullout is very real, reports Graham Caygill from Japan.

A view of the Red Bull Racing garage last weekend at the Singapore grand Prix. Diego Azubel / EPA / September 20, 2015
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SUZUKA, JAPAN // Christian Horner has confirmed that Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz's threat to withdraw his two teams from Formula One is real and he is working hard to prevent that scenario happening.

On a day when it was Red Bull Racing who topped the practice times at a wet Suzuka in the shape of Daniil Kvyat, ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, the focus off the track was on their future along with that of sister team Toro Rosso.

Red Bull, who came into the sport in 2005, dominated F1 from 2010 to 2013, winning the drivers’ and constructors titles for four consecutive years, with Horner operating as team principal and reporting to Mateschitz.

But the Austrian team have struggled to be competitive in the past 18 months since new 1.6-litre turbo engines were brought into the sport, with Renault, who supply their power units, failing to match both Mercedes and Ferrari.

Mateschitz warned earlier this month he would withdraw his teams, including the Toro Rosso team he set up in 2006, if they did not have competitive engines for 2016 with a split from Renault all but confirmed.

But with Mercedes having rejected the chance to supply Red Bull, that leaves only Ferrari as the remaining F1 engine supplier, and led to Mateschitz’s quit threat if he was not happy with his teams’ options for continuing.

Horner said on Friday he was working to persuade Mateschitz to keep the team going, but acknowledged there was a danger of the team closing if they were not satisfied with the engine available to them.

“Dietrich does not speak very often, and when he does you have to sit up and take notice,” Horner said.

“He’s somewhat disillusioned with F1 at the moment; he’s been very consistent in that statement. It’s my job to try and find a solution.

“We have a commitment to F1, to our workforce, a talented team and I’m doing my best to make sure we find a competitive engine to power the team next year but, of course, if that’s not the case there is a risk.”

It is not just Horner who is concerned. Franz Tost, the team principal of Toro Rosso, said the uncertainty was affecting their 2016 preparations.

Tost said plans were in progress for the design of their 2016 chassis, but they could not proceed properly as they did not know which engine they would be using.

“It is difficult now,” the Austrian said. “Every day we don’t get a decision will have a negative impact to the performance of the car.

“We are at the final stage, especially now for the monocoque and we need to know which engine we will race next year as our designers have to design and place the battery, the electric boxes and all the important stuff the power unit needs.”

Toro Rosso are seventh in this season’s constructors’ championship and Tost said that getting the small details spot-on is essential to the team, who can boast Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo among their past drivers, being strong.

“Every small millimetre is decisive for a competitive car and I am really worried about the situation,” he said.

Tost had been optimistic that his cars would thrive in wet conditions in Japan, and he was proven correct as Carlos Sainz Jr set the fastest time in first practice on a day when no dry running at all was possible.

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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