Abiteboul: Engine differences at the core of F1
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Differences in engine performance across Formula 1’s four suppliers should not be regulated out of the sport, says Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul.
A significant part of Ferrari’s decision last Friday to retract its opposition to Red Bull’s push for a freeze on engine development from the 2022 F1 season onwards, the Scuderia are requesting a mechanism be put in place to allow any supplier whose engine still lacks performance past that date be allowed to catch-up.
However for Abiteboul and Renault, such an anti-competitive practice should be avoided, even if they concede a solution needs to be found for Red Bull given Honda’s exit from the sport at the end of 2021.
“There has been a meeting where we all expressed our position,” Abiteboul revealed to Sky Sports F1. “We’ve not changed our position. There is a set of regulations.
“We are ready for some sort of compromise, in particular in the engine freeze because we accept convergence is happening, so spending big money is crazy.
“Having said that, there is clearly a line. We will not turn our backs to 70 years of competition on engines, engine development and performance.
“For us, the engine as a performance differentiator is at the core of Formula 1, it’s what it means for us. We will not cross that line, that is very clear.
“Now if we need to write in the regulations that Red Bull should have the best engine, that’s something different, but I think this is not what’s at stake here.
“We need to find a solution for Red Bull. There is already a solution in the regulation. If they can do it with Honda then all the best, but we should not go further than that.”
As has been made clear by Red Bull, the preferred option for the team post-2021 would be to manufacture their own engines using Honda’s IP, although they say that would not be financially feasible should development be allowed to continue.
The other possibility is for a return to a Renault supply, with whom they partnered from 2007-2018, although it ended on acrimonious terms.
In any case, Renault’s ability to fight back against this push is diminished given they have no customer teams to support them (current customers McLaren are moving to a Mercedes engine supply in 2021).
“It would be good to have a partner team rather than a customer team because you see that Formula 1 is shaping up with these groups of teams,” Abiteboul admitted.
“There are probably some opportunities there whether they be financial, commercial, political or technical, but I think also we need to accept that train has gone.
“I think there was a point when there was a lot of question marks regarding Renault’s commitment to Formula 1. We were not really in a position to secure a long-term customer or partner team. The deals are pretty much set out.
“So we need to see when the next train is going to pass and for me, that’s not going to be massively a job added to our plan for the future.”
As to the question of whether Red Bull could end up back with Renault, Abiteboul said: “We never say never.
“In particular always we have said we would comply with the regulations. If we have the obligation, we will do so.”