A big talking point heading into the Japanese grand prix is whether Red Bull will be able to secure a new engine deal.
It is now known that the energy drink stable, also including the junior team Toro Rosso, is splitting with Renault after the Abu Dhabi finale in November.
It could be the curtain call for both teams.
“That is (team owner) Mr Mateschitz’s opinion,” insisted Red Bull official Dr Helmut Marko, who is Dietrich’s right hand man.
“He knows that it costs the same amount of money to race at the front or, like we are now doing, in the ‘premium midfield’ — and he is not willing to do that for another season,” he told F1’s official website.
Red Bull’s quit threat is real, because Mercedes has ruled out supplying Red Bull, and Ferrari is yet to agree a deal.
Rumours about Volkswagen and Audi are back, but some believe that speculation is being driven politically.
“(Mercedes’) Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe want their board to be afraid that we might learn too much about their engine,” a Red Bull insider is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.
The suggestion is that both Mercedes and Ferrari do not want to work with Red Bull if the team is only filling a gap before Audi steps in.
Sebastian Vettel also doesn’t sound thrilled at the prospect of a Ferrari-powered Red Bull.
“It’s for other people to answer,” he said after winning in Singapore. “And probably the champagne hits me more than I thought so it’s maybe better for me to shut up at this point!”
Marc Surer, a former driver turned pundit for German television, thinks there is some substance at least to the Audi rumours.
“It would make sense for them,” he told Speed Week, “because after so long at Le Mans they can only lose now.
“It is always a political decision too but probably VW has other problems right now,” Surer added, undoubtedly referring to the deepening emissions scandal.
At the end of the day, and especially if it is true Bernie Ecclestone is now involved, Ferrari will probably release an ‘A’ spec of its engines for Red Bull.
Auto Motor und Sport, however, said the Maranello marque may simply not have the time or capacity to also equip Toro Rosso.
So begins the Honda rumour. As the works team, McLaren is reportedly opposed to the idea of customers at present, but the FIA may be pushing for Honda to start pulling its weight by also working with other teams.
An FIA source said: “The special status of the exclusive contract (for McLaren) was for one year only, and a concession to Honda to facilitate their entry.”
Selling to Toro Rosso may also help Honda out financially, particularly as McLaren-Honda’s woeful performance in 2015 is set to cost the team millions in lost prize and sponsor money.
“We have to compensate somehow for the losses,” McLaren team boss Eric Boullier said. “But that is not to say that Honda must automatically pay for it.” (GMM)