Red Bull has confirmed reports it has dropped its threat to quit formula one at the end of this month. "Yes, we've entered the (2016) world championship," team boss Christian Horner declared to the BBC at Interlagos.
It is a strong hint that the energy drink stable is now finally closing on engine deals, amid reports Toro Rosso will run 2015-spec Ferrari power while the senior team is set for Infiniti-branded Renaults. "I would hope by the close of the season we'll be in a position to announce what our plans are," said Horner.
Red Bull's lead driver Daniel Ricciardo hinted at the new Renault deal by suggesting that all eyes will be on the debut in Brazil of the French marque's latest upgrade. The Australian said Renault has promised a tenth or two of extra performance.
"If maybe we see something positive this weekend and take forward for next year, it could give us an option or give us a clarity on where we want to go," said Ricciardo. But he admitted what he really wants. "I've thought to myself how nice it would be to have a car like we've had with a Mercedes in the back," said Ricciardo.
It is believed the biggest uncertainty now, not only for Red Bull but also Lotus, is what Renault eventually decides to do. The carmaker has declared its intention to return to full works status by buying Lotus, but the Enstone team's staff was left locked out of circuit facilities yet again at Interlagos due to unpaid bills.
The Swiss newspaper Blick said it was Bernie Ecclestone who ultimately picked up the tab, with the $353,000 to be deleted from Lotus' official prize money. And the F1 supremo is quoted as saying: "I would not bet that Renault will actually take over Lotus."
If the deal does not happen, Red Bull may have entered the 2016 world championship but it will be without an engine. And that will mean Toro Rosso pulls out of the sport as well. When asked about 2016, Carlos Sainz admitted he is "probably" staying, although "it's not 100 per cent". And "I'm not completely sure," Toro Rosso teammate Max Verstappen agreed according to Marca newspaper, "but I should be (there)." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing