Mario Illien has played down speculation he will play a central role as Red Bull ends its engine supply crisis and races into 2016. With Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren-Honda declining to help the embattled former champions, it is suggested a novel solution to Red Bull's problem has been devised.
It will reportedly involve Red Bull basing its 2016 engine on the basic architecture of the so-called Renault 'D-spec' power unit that will make its debut in Brazil next weekend. Giving credence to the theory is the fact that it is believed the 'D-spec' will debut in one Red Bull car at Interlagos, while sister team Toro Rosso will not run the new specification at all.
That could be due to the fact that Toro Rosso is apparently poised to switch from Renault to 2015-specification Ferrari power for the 2016 season. It is believed Ferrari did not offer the same deal to Red Bull Racing. So the rumour goes that Red Bull has a done a deal to run an 'unbranded' Renault V6 engine next year, completing the package with its own energy recovery systems and the input of Illien, chief of the Ilmor engine company.
It has been suggested the Renault 'D-spec' involves the technology developed by Illien, with an intellectual property dispute between Renault and Red Bull perhaps explaining the long delay in the debut of specification. Indeed, it is believed the 'D spec' was taken to both Austin and Mexico, but not used. However, Renault and Red Bull have explained that the conditions - rain in Austin and altitude in Mexico - were simply not right.
And Auto Motor und Sport claims Toro Rosso is not using the 'D-spec' simply because it would require an expensive tweak to the car's cooling package. Illien, meanwhile, denied any knowledge of an IP dispute between Red Bull and Renault. "I know nothing about it and I also have no idea what upgrades Renault has put in its modified engine," he said. "I can't image that a big company like Renault would secretly install my developments."
What the well-known Swiss engineer will not rule out, however, is that Ilmor might be interested in the FIA's new plans for a parallel 'client engine' in 2017. Indeed, Ilmor is considered a front runner for the contract as it already supplies a Chevrolet-badged, twin-turbo V6 engine for the Indycar series. "I will look at what the tender says and decide what to do then," Illien said. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing