Early October 2020, the announcement of Honda’s departure from the sport as engine supplier caused a significant upheaval to Red Bull and Alpha Tauri, the two stables powered by the Nippon manufacture. As a result, both teams found themselves in a difficult situation, with Mercedes and Ferrari seemingly reluctant to provide an engine to a direct competitor.
From the get-go, Red Bull’s management made no mystery of what was their preferred option — taking over Honda’s intellectual property, and leading from there the development of the rebadged engine in Milton Keynes. That solution came however with a prerequisite. According to Dr. Helmut Marko — head of Red Bull’s driver development programme and advisor to the team — it was “only possible on condition that the engines are frozen by the first race in 2022 at the latest”. For the Austrian, the team could not afford further engine development, neither technically nor financially.
They consequently urged the FIA to proceed to the said engine development freezing, not very subtly pointing that the loss of a team of Red Bull’s calibre would be highly detrimental for the sport. So for everyone’s sake, all F1’s stakeholders should come to an agreement of some sort, in order to allow Red Bull to keep competing.
According to reports, Dr Helmut Marko has now revealed that Red Bull expects a decision from the FIA next week about whether an engine freeze will be implemented in F1. The Austrian manager has indicated that a decision is imminent and that the team are all set to kick on with the project if the verdict goes their way.
“We are waiting for the FIA’s decision. A corresponding clarification should be made next week,” said Marko to Auto Motor und Sport.
“Everything has been settled between us and Honda. The timing is set. Everyone is in the starting blocks. But there will only be an okay when we have written proof from the FIA that the development freeze on the engine side is coming.”
Both Mercedes and Ferrari had already expressed their support for the freezing, with Renault asserting they would agree, providing certain conditions are met. Thus, Marko sees it as a no brainer for everyone involved. “For Formula 1, it’s a very clear common-sense decision.”
Contemplating the policing body’s modus operandi regarding the development of engines being frozen, he anticipated “That it will be regulated by the FIA in some way”.
The 77-year-old sounded very confident, as he replied “No, it does not exist.“ when asked if there was a plan B if the Honda proposal fails.
Ultimately, Marko insisted on the benefits brought by the freeze, in economic and sporting contexts largely impacted by the covid-19 pandemic: “The engine freeze is the most important thing. The so-called safety net of alignment will certainly become more difficult. But if the development freeze is there, the whole project becomes easier for us to handle.”