The focus of the 2016 ‘silly season’ has turned from drivers to engines.
Earlier this week, it appeared that the pieces of the ‘power unit’ puzzle for next year were falling into place. Red Bull was moving from Renault to Ferrari, with Lotus switching from customer Mercedes status to become the works Renault team.
Then came the Frankfurt motor show, attended by Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche and his Renault counterpart Carlos Ghosn. Earlier, with the Renault divorce all but confirmed, talks between Red Bull and Mercedes appeared to have broken down. But Ghosn said in Frankfurt: “We will honour our contracts (with Red Bull), that’s no problem.”
How, however, can Renault honour its contracts if it simply splits with Red Bull? It becomes clearer. The publication Autocar quoted Ghosn as saying: “I have open discussions with Dieter about formula one. We will continue to be competitive but if there are some areas that don’t change the nature of the cooperation, then why not?”
One theory is that Mercedes could supply engines to Renault that are re-branded as Nissan or Infiniti and raced by Red Bull. Zetsche said: “We would very much like Renault to stay in F1, but that must be their decision. If we can help with that in any way we will.” Elsewhere, F1’s strategy group met earlier this week, and engines was a major topic of conversation.
There are rumours that, amid the current restrictions, Honda and Ferrari are now agreed that engine development should be opened up for 2016 and beyond. Meanwhile, the FIA is pressuring the engine suppliers to reduce their customer fees by 50 per cent, amid fierce resistance from Mercedes and Ferrari, according to the Swiss newspaper Blick.
Also discussed was whether engine manufacturers should be allowed to supply year-old power units to customer teams, with FIA president Jean Todt keen to avoid a ‘two-tier’ system, Auto Motor und Sport reports.