Suddenly, almost everything is back on the table as the crisis-struck Red Bull plots a course to stay in formula one.
Mercedes power, however, is one possible exception, as Toto Wolff has repeatedly and consistently ruled out supplying the energy drink-owned camp. Asked on Friday why he was smiling, boss Christian Horner joked: “I’m just very upset to hear Toto is ill and couldn’t make it, that his helicopter couldn’t fly.”
The Briton might be forgiven for the jibe, as it is arguably his toughest moment in the decade or so of running Red Bull Racing on Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz’s behalf. Horner admits Mateschitz is still thinking about pulling both Red Bull and Toro Rosso out. “Of course it is (an option), it’s his team at the end of the day,” he said.
Mateschitz, however, is also involved in helping to end the crisis positively. It is rumoured the crisis began amid Red Bull’s talks with Volkswagen about a F1 project for 2018. Out of patience with Renault, the team simply needed a stopgap engine for two years. Then diesel-gate struck. “Of course there was – as is publicly known – discussion with the VW Group, which obviously … with their current issues probably formula one is the last thing on their mind” now, Horner admitted.
What is left for Red Bull is intense speculation, but at least plenty of rumours have returned to the paddock, where earlier quitting the sport seemed the most likely scenario. Now, even a Horner-led management takeover – along the lines of what Ross Brawn did when Honda pulled out in 2008 – is not being ruled out, nor is a new 2.2 litre V6 engine formula for F1 in 2017, with Cosworth and Ilmor reportedly interested.
“I believe that discussions of other shareholding or change of shareholding, they’re not applicable at the moment,” Horner said when asked about the management buyout rumours. “The focus is purely on finding a solution to our engine predicament, that we can move forward for next year and the future.”
Reports on Friday suggested that amid renewed talks with Renault, an option to become the second Honda-powered team is also very real. Horner doesn’t deny that either. “As we sit here now,” he answered when asked about Honda, “nothing is fixed.” It is believed McLaren, clearly the Honda works team, is furious at the suggestion of sharing with Red Bull, but amid the disastrous season suffered by McLaren-Honda in 2015, nothing can be ruled out.
But Horner also admitted that a 2015-spec Ferrari engine “may well” be the solution, and he also confirmed that the current contract with Renault has not yet been officially dissolved.