Renault aims to make Red Bull rue its decision

19/06/2018
NEWS STORY

In many ways it was inevitable, like a bad marriage it was simply a matter of who was going to be first to admit that it was over.

Then again, like some, Red Bull and Renault could have continued, winning the odd race here and there, suffering another failure and then the inevitable ugly, public falling-out.

On the other hand, in switching to an engine supplier that has yet to prove itself in the hybrid era, is it a case of having jumped from the frying pan into the fire for Red Bull?

While there isn't a French word for schadenfreude, it's clear that seeing his own works team thrash an under-performing Red Bull-Honda in 2019 (and 2020) would give Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul no end of joy.

"We will do everything we can to make them regret this decision," he told Motorsport.com.

"What I mean by that is simply doing the best we can on track with our own team under our own colours," he continued. "I am really extremely excited by the performance improvement to come, in particular with Spec C which we will introduce later this season.

"At this point in time there is no reason to think that Red Bull will not be receiving it, although we are yet to confirm details of engine allocation plan, but I hope that we will make them regret."

While the French manufacturer, with whom Red Bull won all its four driver and four constructor titles, made it clear it wanted to continue the relationship, Abiteboul admits that he isn't surprised by the Austrian team's decision.

"Not surprised whatsoever, frankly," he admits. "I think first we tend to forget this is a confirmation, it is more a status quo actually. Last year in Singapore we announced a comprehensive set of agreements with both the Red Bull group and McLaren. This was featuring a termination of Toro Rosso at the end of 2017 and termination of Red Bull at the end of 2018, even though Red Bull had requested to be a bit more vague about that topic.

"It is more that it went in a different direction when Red Bull requested to us an offer, as there was a bit of indecision about which way to go. For us it is more a confirmation of what was in the air, and which is also a strategic and commercial decision more than purely a technical or sporting decision from Red Bull."

While Honda insists there will be parity between the two Red Bull teams, Abiteboul believes that the Austrian outfit will not merely be a customer team for the Japanese giant.

"Just like when we returned to the sport as a works team, it was important for Red Bull to renew and get back to a position of being a works team," he admits. "It could not be with Renault, it had to be with another entity and they found in Honda a perfect match.

"So I am sure it is a mix of factors and parameters. I am sure that there is something related to performance, but it is very clear there is much more than this. There are a number of things that we could not offer, like financial support, like access to core facilities, because our priority and focus is on the consolidation of the performance of Renault Sport F1."

Possibly trying to put a brave face on it all, Abiteboul claims the loss of Red Bull will allow his company to focus on its two remaining clients, its works team and McLaren.

"It is good for us because it will allow us to really focus on what we have to do for our own team, Renault Sport Racing, and also in preparing for 2021. Obviously when you supply Red Bull Racing, which is a high maintenance team, because of their ambition and their expectation, it is always a bit of a distraction for the rest that we have to do. And we have a lot to do either for this cycle of engine regulations or for the next one."

Officially, the engine manufacturers were supposed to advise the FIA who they would be supplying in 2019 by mid-May, but Red Bull missed deadline after deadline, the Austrian outfit eventually claiming that it would announce its decision around the time of its home (Austrian) Grand Prix.

"It was making our life difficult with the supply chain and the development of parts for next year, plus there is also some sensitivity related to IP," admits Abiteboul. "It was always our baseline assumption that they would be switching to another engine supplier for next year and we were becoming more and more concerned about IP. It was important for us to get clarity of their plans for next year so we could take appropriate measures.

"Equally if they were not going somewhere else, we could slightly change the way we were working together both for the remainder of this season and the preparation of next season.

"So there were a number of factors that were requiring some clarity and if anything I could like to thank them for appreciating that there was no point in delaying a decision."

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Published: 19/06/2018
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