Dr Helmut Marko said he is hopeful changes at Renault will help Red Bull to charge back towards the front in F1. The energy drink company tried to dump Renault and switch to an alternative supplier for 2016, but instead will simply re-brand its French units as 'Tag Heuer'. "Tag Heuer is the engine?" Mercedes' F1 chairman Niki Lauda laughed at fellow Austrian Marko on Servus TV this week. "So when they fail now, will they say that the watch has stopped?" he beamed.
Lauda said he thinks Ferrari will be Mercedes' biggest competitor in 2016, but he noted that Renault has upped its commitment. Marko agrees: "Thankfully there are changes at Renault with extra manpower and a more concentrated effort. We hope that we will be closer." He is angry, however, that Mercedes, Ferrari and even Honda conspired against Red Bull to refuse them access to a different engine. "It is not acceptable that manufacturers manipulate who gets an engine," said Marko.
Lauda agrees that it is "reasonable that from 2018 all manufacturers will make available to customers a cheaper engine". But he said Bernie Ecclestone's plan to install an independent supplier with different rules is wrong. "It cannot be that Red Bull has an engine connected to him (Ecclestone) which he (Marko) then turns up and beats us with. That is manipulation."
Lauda also backed Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg amid their feuding, arguing that "Our success lies in the fact that they are pushing". But Marko hit back: "Niki overlooks the fact that no one is coming close to their car." "Would you suggest that we go slower?" Lauda retorted. "Much easier," answered Marko, "would have been to give us an engine."
But also refusing to give Red Bull an engine was Ferrari, whose president Sergio Marchionne on Monday slammed the energy drink stable. "I find it offensive that somebody (Red Bull) considered it normal and rightful to have a good engine. Nobody has the right to such an engine," he said. Marchionne was referring to Red Bull's constant criticism of its existing engine partner Renault. "Is a team strong with a chassis if it has no engine?" he wondered. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing