Red Bull slams Renault engines - but is there an alternative?

Ricciardo Red Bull

Red Bull Racing have grown so frustrated with their under-performing Renault engine that they're looking into building their own.

"We've obviously had a lot of success with Renault," said team principal Christian Horner after yesterday's Austrian Grand Prix. "We've won all the races and all the championships that we've achieved with Renault power. But the situation just isn't improving at the moment.

"The reliability is unacceptable. The performance is unacceptable. There needs to be change at Renault. It can't continue like this. It's not good for Renault and it's not good for Red Bull."

Should Red Bull end their relationship with the French manufacturer, there is no way that arch-rivals Ferrari or Mercedes will supply them, while Honda have committed all of their focus to McLaren. As such Red Bull may look to do what what all great innovators do and create their own alternative. The team's motorsport advisor Helmut Marko confirmed as much during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.

"We will not be asking Mercedes," said Marko. "But there are a lot of very skilled companies concerning engines. [Automotive consulting firm] AVL is 70 kilometres from here."

Asked whether a Red Bull-produced engine was possible, Marko replied: "You should never say no," adding that the company "are looking at all alternatives."

However, while all this public posturing will raise the pressure on Renault to improve the performance and reliability of their power units, it is ultimately meaningless, and makes the Austro-British outfit look rather silly.

To put it bluntly, there is no way that they can have a bespoke engine on the grid for 2016, when their Renault contract expires.

Looking beyond the huge financial investment in the personnel and facilities which it'll take to develop an engine, it is the timeframe which means this idea will not work.

The design for the 2016 car will begin around this time next year, so conservatively in June 2015. In order to execute engineering basics such as weight distribution and packaging the internals, the theoretical engine would need to be completed by this time. That gives Red Bull around twelve months to go from having a blank piece of paper to a working, reliable, and quick engine.

That feat is impossible.

If they bought a design which an engineering firm such as Illmor or AVL have as a concept, they could pay for it to be built, tested, and then go through the entire development process. The end result, they'd hope, would be a unit refined enough to power them to victory in 2016.

That, too, is impossible.

It would be a massive gamble, to put it kindly, to think that they could make a first generation engine with no data that is quicker than a Renault engine which, by 2016, will be third generation with two development periods and two years of data. This doesn't even take into account how much further ahead the Mercedes, Ferrari, and Honda units could possibly be.

In short, Red Bull don't have time to produce an engine, and anything they do make will be vastly inferior to their current Renault option. It is almost impossible for them to not stay with Renault, and any public posturing to the contrary is just making them look silly.

Ben Halls