Red Bull: Engine supply talk with Mercedes was ‘very short conversation’

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that talks of an engine supply deal with Mercedes, after the announcement of Honda’s exit from F1, resulted in “a very short conversation” with Toto Wolff who was not “keen” on the idea.

Last year, Red Bull found itself frantically searching for a new engine partner to replace Honda from 2022.

The energy drink company eventually decided to set up its own power unit department at Milton Keynes and take over Honda’s engine program. A decision born out of necessity after Horner had held conversations with F1’s three engine manufacturers.

“The most natural thing was to have a discussion with the existing suppliers,” Horner said on Formula 1’s Beyond The Grid podcast.

“Mercedes was a very short conversation and Toto obviously wasn’t particularly keen on that one.

“Renault, their aspirations as a team didn’t include supplying a team like Red Bull, and probably the most willing was Ferrari. And we had some exploratory discussions.

“But to be a customer, so to have to accept all the integration, particularly with the new regulations coming, would be a massively hard pill to swallow.

So that’s when we started to explore the possibility of ‘okay, how do we take on this challenge in a Red Bull manner and see if we can put a deal together with Honda in the foreseeable future?’”

Having established Red Bull Powertrains, which will operate out of a factory located on the Red Bull Racing campus at Milton Keynes, the new company has been steadily building up its engineering workforce, poaching a contingent of staff from Mercedes HPP in Brixworth, including former engine chief Ben Hodgkinson.

Horner admits that Red Bull becoming its own engine supplier was “a bold step”, but also one for which Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz did not need much convincing.

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“It’s a big step, it’s a bold step, to take control of our own destiny as an engine supplier and bring the whole lot under one roof in Milton Keynes,” he explained.

“It would make us the only team other than Ferrari to have the whole lot within one facility,” he explained.

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“In terms of a sell, I think [Dietrich Mateschitz] reached that conclusion himself – that we had no choice – and Helmut [Marko] was obviously very supportive and pushing hard for it. It was absolutely the right call.”

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