These are testing times for the Red Bull team. After four years of dominance, resulting in four titles for Sebastian Vettel and four Constructor’s Championships for the team, they found themselves completely blown away by the emergence of Mercedes in 2014. Any chance of a recovery for themselves and engine suppliers Renault in 2015 have already been dismissed as they scrap for points in midfield. Off the track, the public war-of-words is damaging both their reputations. The relationship is a broken one, and it needs to be fixed – fast.
Both have threatened to quit the sport in recent weeks, but would either of them go through with it after a disastrous opening two rounds? It’s unlikely. A strong F1 car has a massive impact for both the brand, and the engine manufacturer. Ferrari have stated there is a distinct correlation between car sales and the success of their F1 team, and it’s likely Renault and Mercedes would notice the same. Of course it’s not just about winning the championship – it’s also about beating your competitors. Right now, Mercedes are the manufacturer that gains the most out of F1, and this is not good news for the others.
There is however, a possibility that Renault may cut their ties with Red Bull and look to buy their junior team Toro Rosso, setting up a Renault F1 team. Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost has welcomed the rumour, stating in a press conference:
“I think this would be a fantastic opportunity for Toro Rosso to make the next step forward because the team wants to be established in the future within the first five in the constructors’ championship. To be part of a manufacturer – to be owned by a manufacturer – would be exactly [the] step forward the team needs to be established in the first five.”
It’s a stark warning to Red Bull and Toro Rosso owner Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner that it’s the former champions who have most to lose in all of this. Should Renault decide to buy Toro Rosso, or indeed pull-out of F1 altogether, that would leave Red Bull without an engine supplier – and even worse – with very few options to turn to. Mercedes would surely not supply the Swiss team, given their rivalry. Honda are sticking with an exclusive deal with McLaren for the foreseeable future, so exactly where could Red Bull look?
At the end of the day, Red Bull need to accept they are just a racing team like all the others. Teams come and go, but the engine manufacturers remain. Next season, Haas F1 – and possibly the mysterious Forza Rossa team – will join the grid. This makes Red Bull’s position all the more unstable. It’s doubtful they would leave F1 of their own free will, but they may very well be forced to. Any arguments between the pair must be done behind closed doors, away from public view. They need to realise that hard work, and hard work only will get the partnership back to winning ways. They have reigned supreme before, and they can do so again.