Red Bull expect Renault split to be finalised in the 'coming days'
However, with no replacement Christian Horner insists threat to quit is real; Team principal adamant agreement until 2020 won't stop Red Bull pulling out
By William Esler
Last Updated: 09/10/15 11:13am
Christian Horner expects Red Bull's divorce from Renault to be finalised in the "coming days" but has reiterated that their threat to quit F1 is real.
After a public war of words over the competitiveness of the Renault's hybrid power unit over the past two seasons, the partnership that yielded four consecutive doubles is nearing a messy end.
Renault have already ruled out supplying customer teams in 2016, but the French manufacturer may remain in F1 should they complete a protracted takeover of cash-strapped Lotus.
Red Bull are yet to find a replacement partner after Mercedes ruled out supplying their rivals. That leaves Ferrari as the Milton Keynes team's only realistic option, but Horner says no deal has been struck for Italian power.
"There are some positive discussions going one behind the sciences with Renault," Horner said.
"I think Red Bull's position and Renault's position is fairly clear in what we want to achieve and hopefully that will be concluded within the coming days.
"As far as anything else it is purely speculative. But of course we are having various different conversations."
Ferrari made significant progress with their engine last winter and took another major step forward at the Italian GP and Horner admits Red Bull would leap at a deal for their 2016 unit.
"A 2016 engine is no issue at all, I think we would sign on the dotted line as soon as possible for a '16 engine," he told Sky Sports F1.
So does that mean that Ferrari have only offered Red Bull a 2015 engine next year?
"Obviously there are discussions going on with Ferrari and we are waiting to hear formally what their position is. But concluding our business with Renault is our priority at this minute in time."
Perhaps the Scuderia are wary of making a rival too competitive, but Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz believes that could spell the end of the Milton Keynes-based team. "If Ferrari will only supply Red Bull with a 2015 engine then I think there is no doubt that Red Bull will walk away," he said.
Last week both Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and his motorsport advisor Helmut Marko stressed that they would pull out of F1 if a competitive engine could not be sourced for their two teams. That would put the future of both Red Bull and Toro Rosso in doubt and losing four cars would be a hefty blow to the F1 grid.
"Dietrich Mateschitz doesn't talk very often, but when he does you have to sit up and take notice," said Horner.
"I think he is somewhat disillusioned with Formula 1 at the moment and he has been very consistent in that statement. It is my job to try and find a solution. We have a big commitment to Formula 1, a big workforce, a very talented team and I am doing my best to try and ensure we find a competitive engine to power the team next year.
"But if that is not the case there is a risk because Red Bull's position is different to teams like McLaren or Williams or Ferrari. Formula 1 has to provide a marketing return globally. In order to do that you need to be not restricted in terms of the tools at your disposal."
The tool Horner refers to is, of course, the Renault power unit. While acknowledging the success they had together during the V8-era, he feels Red Bull were justified in their public criticism of an engine that is "three years" away from being competitive.
"I think we have been nothing but open and honest. You can hide behind PR speak and spin, at the end of the day this business is about results and delivering and quite frankly Renault haven't delivered," Horner said.
"They have missed the target and when you are paying for that product you have the right to feel aggrieved about it.
"Since the regulation change there are really only two engines out there that you can compete for grand prix victories with and unfortunately Renault have fallen behind that. It looks like it is going to be two to three years before they can be in a position to compete again and as a paying customer we cannot afford to wait that long."
When it was put to Horner that Red Bull have a commercial deal with Formula One Management tying them to the sport until 2020, the team principal was adamant that wouldn't stop the drinks firm pulling their backing from their two teams.
"As Bernie Ecclestone would say, 'circumstances change' and circumstances now are very different to when since we entered into that agreement," he added.
"Our intention is to find a solution and there is an awful lot of working going on in the background to try and find a solution. Some of that is out of our hands, but rest assured every effort is going in to ensure Red Bull are here until 2020 and hopefully beyond, but there are some big questions that need answering."