The partnership, which delivered four double world championships between 2010 and 2013, must be considered among the most successful in F1 but it is difficult to see it continuing in the long term.
Last year, when the V6 hybrid engines were introduced, Renault was off the pace. After a poor start to this season in Australia, Red Bull’s designer Adrian Newey said there was “no light at the end of the tunnel.” Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth and Daniil Kvyat’s car suffered gearbox trouble on the way to the start.
Newey’s comment has brought an angry response from Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul, who told the French magazine Auto Hebdo: “It is hard to have a partner who lies. Adrian is a charming gentleman and an outstanding engineer but he has spent his life criticising engine manufacturers. And he’s too old to change.”
Later, Abiteboul added: “We need to work together to understand our issues, both within the power unit and the chassis. Our figures have shown the lap-time deficit between Red Bull and Mercedes in Melbourne was equally split between driveability issues, engine performance and chassis performance. It’s therefore the overall package that needs some help and we have been working with the team to move forward.
“We’ve been particularly aggressive in development and we should see the results a lot more clearly in Malaysia.”
Relations between Red Bull and Renault worsened after the Australian Grand Prix, when Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team principal, said: “It’s been a tough weekend. The engine is quite undriveable. You can see and hear that. There is a lot to be done. It’s worse than in testing. It’s a spiralling effect. They need to have a vision for a fix and quickly.
“You can see Ferrari have made a good step and Renault appear to have made a retrograde step. Until they get to the bottom of the issues, it is going to be difficult to address it and understand. It is frustrating that we are further back than we were in Abu Dhabi in both power and driveability. After this weekend it’s important that we regroup with Renault because we are obviously in a bit of a mess at the moment. It has been a shitty day for us.”
The former Formula One driver turned commentator John Watson told The Guardian on Monday: “What Christian Horner said about Renault was outrageous. Has the bloke lost the plot? Is he more focused on his own personal celebrity? There were some unnecessarily blunt comments about the Renault power unit. You should keep those comments for meetings behind closed doors.
“Renault are spending a fortune supporting the technology and the hardware to enable Red Bull to continue the success they have enjoyed. If I was Renault I would feel pissed off that Christian has bit off the hand that’s been feeding him.”
Red Bull are contracted to Formula One until 2020 but with no quick fix in sight from Renault, and with no engine deal with Ferrari or Mercedes likely, it is understandable the team have suggested they may walk away from F1 before then.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010