Dr. Helmut Marko, managing director of Infiniti Red Bull Racing, is not a happy man these days. His team, which swept the World Championship four years in a row, is now in second place in the 2014 championship fight. After only 5 races, it already trails first place Mercedes AMG Petronas by more than 100 points. Something must be done to erase this stain on the Red Bull reputation. But what?
The obvious answer is to blame someone else. This week, he told the German newspaper Bild that Red Bull has lost money as a result of Renault’s poor performance, and they want that money back.
“It would be irresponsible to talk now about exact figures. But it’s a long list of things lost because Renault has not worked well. The season’s not over yet. At the end, our financial department will make an account. Then we will see what loss we have made by Renault.” He went on to say, “The image damage is already beyond repair.”
There is really nothing wrong with the Renault engine itself. Renault has been building championship winning engines for decades and is quite good at it. The problem is with the new for 2014 rules package, which requires the use of hybrid power trains to make the cars more “green”. It is thought that using eco-friendly technology may attract other manufacturers to enter the sport; after all, hybrids are all the rage these days and what better way to showcase your products than to go racing?
To be competitive this year, the teams must squeeze as much energy as possible out of every drop of fuel. Getting all the pieces of the hybrid engine package to work together in harmony requires incredibly complex computer controls, and that is where things have fallen apart for Renault. The hardware is fine; it’s the software that’s a mess.
Red Bull’s bluster may come back to bite them if Renault tells them to go find its engines somewhere else. Right now, there are precious few options available. It’s highly unlikely either Mercedes or Ferrari will be willing bail out their arch rival, and while Honda is getting back into Formula One racing next year, it will only supply engines to McLaren. So where could Red Bull turn?
Rumors abound that Volkswagen already has a Formula One spec engine package sitting on the shelf, just waiting for a customer. But if you were the owner of a race team, would you rather do business with a company that has been hugely successful in the sport for almost 30 years, or one that has absolutely no experience whatsoever? Red Bull might just as well ask Ford or Chevrolet if they could cobble something together over a long weekend.
Tell us what you think about this dust-up between Red Bull and Renault in the comments section below.