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Helmut Marko Q&A: Competitive engine key to Red Bull future

23 Sep 2015

Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko is not a man to mince his words. Red Bull Racing want success - success which Marko says Renault cannot provide, Mercedes won’t provide, and Ferrari might provide. In an exclusive interview with Formula1.com, the candid Austrian outlines the team’s options for 2016 - including one that Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat won’t be keen to contemplate…

Q: Helmut, the cooperation between Red Bull and Renault is seemingly over. After eight championship titles together, it cannot have been easy to throw in the towel. Can you explain the reasoning?

Helmut Marko: Renault couldn’t provide us with an engine that enabled us to run at the front. It’s that simple.

Q: Your 2014 season was tough, things have got little better this year, and you had the impression that 2016 would also see no real improvement… that is what drove the decision?

HM: Yes, it was last year, it was this year, and we couldn’t see that they would be up there with Mercedes or Ferrari next year.

Q: So your belief that their development has stalled was the decisive factor?

HM: Yes. Never forget, we are customers - we pay for the product and nobody likes to spend money on an inferior product. So it was time to make a decision.

Q: Red Bull wanted an engine deal with Mercedes, but that is not going to happen. Why? Was there a fear at Mercedes of too much competition?

HM: You better ask Toto Wolff. He is the one to know.

Q: We did - and the simple answer was that the engine is the decisive factor in F1 racing right now and that they have worked very hard to achieve their success, hence they opted against supplying Red Bull but want to continue their model of supporting independent, privateer racing teams [you can read what Wolff had to say in full here]…

HM: Yep, straightforward.

Q: Is that what they told you?

HM: Yes - and I guess it is the truth.

Q: So next year it looks like you will be racing with a Ferrari power train…

HM: It is not fixed yet, but yes, we did have a conversation with [FIAT CEO] Mr Marchionne in Monza.

Q: But if it is not a Ferrari engine, what else could it be? The Mercedes avenue is closed and Honda is probably not an option right now…

HM: There is an option to stop F1.

Q: Is that scenario really on the table?

HM: Yes, that is a scenario. If we don’t have an engine that allows us to compete at the very front we will prefer to stop.

Q: Is that something that the F1 community is aware of? It would involve two teams…

HM: It is known - but I think not everybody recognises what impact it would have.

Q: As an engine customer, do you believe you would get the same A-spec engine as the works team?

HM: If it were a few horsepower less we would not be concerned. But in the end you can check that very easily with the GPS data and other parameters to see what you really get. The truth is that the engine - the hardware - is not the real issue. That is the software and the same fuel.

Q: So being a customer of another team is not a bad thing per se?

HM: No. We have won eight titles as a customer of Renault.

Q: A new power train for 2016 - what does that mean for a car that was designed around the Renault engine, especially given that soon you will have to start working on the 2017 changes?

HM: That wouldn’t be a problem. We have good people and we have good facilities.

Q: Is it a cost matter?

HM: Also no, as we have to build a new chassis anyway.

 

Q: Will the deal with Ferrari also include Toro Rosso?

HM: That would be the ideal scenario. On the synergy and cost side it would make much sense.

Q: What about Audi or Volkswagen? There have long been rumours of them entering F1 racing and you cooperate with them in many other racing series...

HM: I don’t think that they have a ready engine concept in their drawers. Yes, the rumours are there - and, of course, it would be great if another engine manufacturer would join. But right now that is all crystal ball reading.

Q: You wanted Red Bull Racing to finish third in this season’s championship and Toro Rosso fifth. Do you still hold on to that prediction?

HM: No. Because the moment we are racing at a ‘power circuit’ we do not have the slightest chance - and after Singapore, which was indeed a pretty good points shower for us, there is a string of power circuits: Suzuka, Sochi, Austin and Brazil. And at Toro Rosso we unfortunately had too many issues, so we have to do a reality check: for Red Bull Racing it is realistic to finish fourth - and Toro Rosso has to be seen.

Q: With so many loose strings, the drivers must be the least of your problems…

HM: …because all four are doing well. The youngsters are doing better than expected. So drivers are no issue on my table.

Q: Can you draw a picture of Red Bull Racing’s future? Medium and long term?

HM: I only can look at next year: if we don’t have a competitive engine there is no future in F1 for Red Bull Racing. The curtain may go down after Abu Dhabi. That is [Red Bull owner] Mr Mateschitz’s opinion. He knows that it costs the same amount of money to race at the front or, like we are now doing, in the ‘premium midfield’ - and he is not willing to do that for another season.