Red Bull and Renault

David Coulthard, French GP 2006

David Coulthard, French GP 2006 

 © The Cahier Archive

There is much talk at the moment about a deal between Red Bull Racing and Renault in 2007. Red Bull has a contract with Ferrari but the team knows that no Ferrari customer team has ever won a race and Adrian Newey and the other engineers are believed to be pushing for a deal that will put the team in a position to win races. The logic up to now is that in order to get exclusive use of an engine, Red Bull would do a deal with Cosworth, achieving economies of scale in 2008 by building identical cars for both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. It is not clear whether Renault would be in a position to supply two customer teams in 2008 but it is worth noting that Renault F1 in Viry-Chatillon no longer manufactures and builds the engines that are raced in F1. This work is done by Mecachrome at its factory at Aubigny, near Bourges, where there are 720 employees and 150 CNC machines in operation. Mecachrome also has its own foundry at Vibraye, near Le Mans.

In the past Renault has shown that it was capable of supply identical engines to different teams (notably when it was supplying Williams and Benetton in the mid 1990s) but with the involvement of a factory operation things are likely to be more complicated, not least because Renault F1 team boss Flavio Briatore has had a very close business relationship with Mecachrome since the days of Supertec engines and the company today builds all the engines for the Briatore-owned GP2 series. Red Bull sources talk of a direct relationship with the Renault company to ensure that the teams get the same engines but such things are very hard to orchestrate.

Red Bull might be positioning itself to take over as the Renault factory team if the decision is taken to quit the sport and work only as an engine supplier but Renault bosses have been adamant that this will not happen. It is worth noting, however, that in the 1980s when Renaulot closed down its factory operation the engines were supplied to customers Lotus, Ligier and Tyrrell.

If Renault can supply two teams in 2008 then a deal with Red Bull does make some sense although some at Red Bull say that it is actually wiser to have its two teams running with different engines as this would ensure that one of the two teams would be competitive if one of the engines was not very good.

In the background there is also the question of drivers as Renault is trying to find somewhere to place Heikki Kovalainen if a deal can be sorted out with Kimi Raikkonen for next year.

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