An ambitious Red Bull project to produce its own engine in-house, something only Ferrari does in Formula 1, is starting to take shape. Their main target is rival Mercedes: because they are the only ones who also own their engine plant in England, Red Bull is investing heavily to attract its employees. On Mercedes’ side, coach Toto Wolff raised suspicions that Red Bull was spreading secrets from current partner Honda, who would leave the rating at the end of 2022.
The race against time is for Red Bull to have the chassis to build its own engine from 2025, when the development freeze, which runs from 2022 to the end of 2024, ends. In the meantime, they continue with Honda engines.
Last year, the transformation of Building 8 at the team’s plant in Milton Keynes began to become the headquarters for the engines division of a team that, when it debuted in F1 in 2005, was not seen as dangerous. After all, how does an energy drink manufacturer develop its own F1? But they were hiring brilliant aerodynamic minds, like Adrian Newie, and mechanics and they won four championships between 2010 and 2013. They just stopped winning when the engines became a significant performance difference – their development was frozen before 2014, in the same way it would be from 2022 – And Mercedes has gained space.
Now, it’s fair to say their ambition is to become a Mercedes, even though it’s still an energy drink company.
It wasn’t the perfect way for them: The attraction of a carmaker not yet in Formula 1, given that Red Bull does not want to return to being a competing customer, as was the case with Renault until 2018, is still seen as a possibility. . And this is where Wolf’s hints that Red Bull are leaking the intellectual property of Honda, which they got to start their project, come in to Volkswagen. Chancellor Helmut Marco vehemently denied this.
“This is nonsense, it will not be fair and not in our plans. With the current rules, we are responsible for this engine. But the truth is that we are open to partnership in the future, so they put the name on the engine or more. This is possible and even desirable to keep our costs within limits.” But whether it’s going to be a car maker or some other company is something that is completely open at the moment, ”Marco said.
What Red Bull does is prepare for the worst-case scenario: having to build the engine in-house and bear all the costs. Since it is a matter of spending, it is better to look for specialized workers, which made the team focus on Mercedes, which manufactures its engines in Brixworth, a city less than an hour from the company’s headquarters. Red Bull, in Milton Keynes.
Not surprisingly, then, the team went to look for talent specifically in the competitor who, along with the “neighbor” (other F1 engine factories in France, Italy and Japan) owned the power unit that dominated this class.
“Obviously if you want to set up an engine plant in the UK, there is only one, and it’s ours,” Wolf said. “We have about 900 employees there, and they were looking for more production workers, not high-performance people.”
This does not seem to be entirely correct. According to Marco, ten of the hired professionals were in senior positions at Mercedes. Some of the names are known: Ben Hodgkinson will be the new Technical Director of Red Bull Powertrains. Steve Blouitt will be the Production Director, Omid Moustaghi will be the Head of Electronics for Power Units and Energy Recovery Systems, Pep Claude will be the Head of Mechanical Design for Hybrid Systems, Anton May will be responsible for the design of the combustion engine and Steve Brody will be the Leader of the Combustion Engine Group as well. However, some of these professionals will only be able to join Red Bull in 2023, for contractual reasons.
In Wolf’s accounts, Red Bull put on bids for about 100 Mercedes employees and welcomed around 15 employees. Marco said the Germans were trying to retain their staff by doubling their salaries, but Wolff responded by saying Paul’s response increased even more. “Doubling wages is one thing, but if you triple it, it is no longer a matter of loyalty. But I give credit to the project. It’s Mount Everest that they’re trying to climb.” The battle that has been haunting the race track this season is also in full swing outside of it.