Come the end of what should have been a glorious homecoming for Red Bull at its own circuit in Austria and the only driver on the podium associated with the brand was the man doing the interviews, former driver Mark Webber. It was, to say the least, a tough day for the Austrian outfit.
Sebastian Vettel exited the race after 34 laps having suffered power problems as early as lap two. The team retired him in order to preserve the power unit and gearbox. Daniel Ricciardo, a grand prix winner in Canada a fortnight ago, limped home in eighth place. And with every finisher ahead of the Australian bar Fernando Alonso using Mercedes power, Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner ramped up the pressure on engine supplier Renault in the wake of the race.
“The situation just isn’t improving at the moment. Reliability is unacceptable, performance is unacceptable,” he said. “There needs to be change at Renault, because it can’t continue like this. It’s not good for Renault, it’s not good for Red Bull.”
There have been persistent rumours that Red Bull might investigate the possibility of opting out of its engine partnership with Renault or taking the more radical step of producing its own engine, but Horner was once again quick to deny both possibilities.
“We need to work together as partners [with Renault], there will not be another engine in the back of the car next year, we want to be competitive, we want to run at the front, and these kinds of issues can’t and shouldn’t happen,” he said.
Speaking about the possibilities of the team becoming an engine manufacturer he added: “It’s highly improbable. First of all we need to see what the plans of Renault are. Obviously a team like Red Bull isn’t short of choices, but we want to make sure that we’re competitive for the long term. Obviously designing and manufacturing our own engine currently isn’t part of our plan.
“We’re specialists in building chassis. We have no desire to be an engine manufacturer, we want to work with a strong, competitive partner.”
“Something needs to happen, because whatever’s being done there is not working at the moment,” he continued. “It’s not our business, it’s not our responsibility; we’re the end user. It’s just frustrating that the product is just not working at the moment.
“It’s no surprise that there are eight Mercedes cars in the top 10. We haven’t been competitive this weekend, eighth was the optimum that we could achieve, and it’s frustrating that we’re nearing the half way point in the season and the situation hasn’t really improved from Melbourne.”
Speaking to the BBC after the race, Renault F1 deputy managing director Rob White said he understood Red Bull Racing’s frustrations.
“The anxiety that Christian feels and the frustration he feels after a result that is not at the full potential of the performance of car and power unit is completely understandable and shared by us,” he insisted.
“We are completely committed to making progress as fast as we possibly can and I think we have shown signs of progress before now, and we remain sure of where the expectations of Red Bull and Christian lie.”
The return of the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring wasn’t just marred by the poor performance of Vettel and Ricciardo’s cars. In the end the Australian’s was the only Red Bull-branded car to the finish the event, with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat exiting the race after 24 laps with a suspension issue and Jean-Eric Vergne retiring after 59 laps with brake problems.
Red Bull junior programme driver Alex Lynn did at least give the company something to smile about by taking a lights-to-flag victory in the first GP3 race of the weekend on Saturday to extend his lead in the championship to 13 points over Jimmy Eriksson.