Red Bull-Renault? Red Bull-Ferrari? Red Bull-Honda? At this moment in time, take your pick.
This week Auto, Motor und Sport reported that Red Bull is close to a deal with Honda about supplying the team in 2016.
This comes a few weeks after it was suggested that the team would potentially stay with Renault for next season.
Clearly Red Bull are running out of options when it comes to an engine supply for 2016. Mercedes and Ferrari aren’t keen to give a main rival 2016-spec engines whilst Renault aren’t happy at how Red Bull have criticised them during the season.
That naturally leaves only Honda as the remaining option of the current engine suppliers. This is slightly strange as Honda have endured a very tough return to the sport and Red Bull have stated that they want a competitive engine for next season, which the Honda hasn’t really been so far this season. Yet with Alonso being positive about Honda’s recent improvements, perhaps it is a smart move by Red Bull.
Although surely McLaren wouldn’t be too happy with Honda supplying a rival team and you would at least assume that McLaren would have some sort of say as to who else Honda can and cannot supply engines to.
This situation and Red Bull’s general engine dilemma has made me think about McLaren’s predicament at the end of 1992.
In that season Honda pulled out of the sport, leaving McLaren without an engine supplier for 1993. It was too late to get a new engine manufacturer on board and had to try and secure a supply from a current F1 engine manufacturer instead. The team therefore eventually went after Ford.
However Benetton were Ford’s works team, effectively, and the likes of Flavio Briatore at Benetton weren’t keen to see McLaren run the same up to date spec engine as them.
It was eventually agreed that McLaren would run slightly older Ford engines. This didn’t please the likes of Ayrton Senna at McLaren who felt with the most recent spec engine he could mount a more serious title challenge against Alain Prost and Williams-Renault.
For 1994 McLaren switched to Peugeot, despite also testing a Lambourghini engine. The Peugeot engine was unreliable leading to the team tempting Mercedes away from Sauber to supply McLaren in 1995, which started a twenty season partnership.
Assuming Red Bull stay in F1 for 2016, the team could find themselves in a similar situation to McLaren in the early to mid 1990’s, and may just have to accept a slightly less competitive engine for 2016 and probably 2017 whilst at the same time attempting to entice a new engine manufacturer to the sport to work with them from 2018 onwards.