Renault says it hopes to make Red Bull regret its decision to switch to Honda next year by delivering major performance gains with its own engine.
Following months of speculation about Red Bull’s plans for 2019, the Milton Keynes-based team confirmed on Tuesday morning that it would be ending its long association with Renault to tie up with Honda.
Reacting to the news of Red Bull’s decision, Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said that his company was now determined to show enough progress with future engines to leave Red Bullthinking it may have made the wrong move.
“We will do everything we can to make them regret this decision,” Abiteboul said in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com.
“What I mean by that is simply doing the best we can on track with our own team under our own colours.
“I am really extremely excited by the performance improvement to come, in particular with Spec C which we will introduce later this season.
“At this point in time there is no reason to think that Red Bull will not be receiving it, although we are yet to confirm details of engine allocation plan, but I hope that we will make them regret.”
Abiteboul said that he was not really taken aback that Red Bull elected to go the Honda route, having originally indicated last year that it did not want its supply deal to go on beyond 2018.
“Not surprised whatsoever, frankly,” he said about Red Bull’s choice.
“I think first we tend to forget this is a confirmation – it is more a status quo actually.
“Last year in Singapore we announced a comprehensive set of agreements with both the Red Bull group and McLaren.
“This was featuring a termination of Toro Rosso at the end of 2017 and termination of Red Bull at the end of 2018, even though Red Bull had requested to be a bit more vague about that topic.
“It is more that it went in a different direction when Red Bull requested to us an offer, as there was a bit of indecision about which way to go.
“For us it is more a confirmation of what was in the air, and which is also a strategic and commercial decision more than purely a technical or sporting decision from Red Bull.”
Abiteboul suggested that the added attraction of a works relationship with Honda, allied to potential financial benefit, was a clear motivation for Red Bull.
“Just like when we returned to the sport as a works team, it was important for Red Bull to renew and get back to a position of being a works team,” explained Abiteboul.
“It could not be with Renault, it had to be with another entity and they found in Honda a perfect match.
“So I am sure it is a mix of factors and parameters. I am sure that there something related to performance, but it is very clear there is much more than this.
“And there are a number of things that we could not offer, like financial support, like access to core facilities, because our priority and focus is on the consolidation of the performance of Renault Sport F1.”
Although Abiteboul confesses that losing the benchmark of Red Bull’s performance was not ideal, he does think there will be some benefits to cutting back his company’s supply to just two teams.
“It is good for us because it will allow us to really focus on what we have to do for our own team, Renault Sport Racing, and also in preparing for 2021,” he said.
“Obviously when you supply Red BullRacing, which is a high maintenance team, because of their ambition and their expectation, it is always a bit of a distraction for the rest that we have to do.
“And we have a lot to do either for this cycle of engine regulations or for the next one.”
Although Red Bull had initially been expected to make its decision on engines at the Austrian GP, Abiteboul said that his company could not afford to wait that long – which prompted the earlier than expected call.
“It was making our life difficult with the supply chain and the development of parts for next year, plus there is also some sensitivity related to IP,” he said.
“It was always our baseline assumption that they would be switching to another engine supplier for next year and we were becoming more and more concerned about IP.
“It was important for us to get clarity of their plans for next year so we could take appropriate measures.
“Equally if they were not going somewhere else, we could slightly change the way we were working together both for the remainder of this season and the preparation of next season.
“So there were a number of factors that were requiring some clarity and if anything I could like to thank them for appreciating that there was no point in delaying a decision.”