Red Bull’s foray into producing its own Powertrains was costly, but it was an investment for the future. The move has given the team full control over its engine, which was previously a weak point owing to fluctuating fortunes with engine partners such as Renault. Red Bull committed hundreds of millions of pounds to the programme after Honda quit F1 and set up its own engine division. But the arrangement put the team in charge of its own future, with efficiency and synergy gains enhancing the production of both cars and engines in-house.
Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen admitted it was a shame that Honda’s announcement to stay put came too late. Verstappen’s quick response to Honda’s stay in F1 was that it was unfortunate how the situation had turned out. “Unfortunately, once you’re already in the process of building a whole engine yourself, you can’t really work together anymore. It’s a bit of a shame, I would say,” Verstappen said.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the move was expensive, but it was part of the thrill of the challenge. “It’s hugely ambitious, but I think it is about taking control of our own destiny for the longer term.” When Honda decided to leave the sport, Red Bull was left with a decision to either return to being a customer team or investing in its own Powertrains.
Red Bull invested heavily in its Powertrains to be fully in control of its future. The move to produce Powertrains in-house has given the team more control over its supplier. The investment has also resulted in incremental gains for the team’s car. Red Bull knows that going back to being a customer would be disadvantageous, as the team wouldn’t have control over its supplier.
Producing its own engine was a no-brainer for Red Bull, said Horner. The team knew that being a permanent force at the front meant having total control over what went into the back of its car. While the move resulted in short-term costs, Horner said the manufacturer support from Ford, which had joined the project, eventually put Red Bull on a more equal footing with competitors who have similar access to investment.
One of the biggest positives Red Bull has realised from its Powertrains approach is that it has obtained the best of both worlds. While there is manufacturer support on board with Ford, there are no downsides to being dictated in terms of end product. Horner said the enthusiasm from Ford had been phenomenal. “They’re bringing knowhow in areas that we don’t have expertise, particularly in battery cell technology,” he said.
Horner said the engine of supply side of the business could change under new commercial rights income benefits that could come from the new Concorde Agreement, which is up for renewal in 2026. Red Bull‘s investment in Powertrains may have cost the team, but the benefits will help the brand in the long run. The move has allowed the team to share approaches, and have chassis and engine engineers sitting next to each other, which will bring long-term benefit.