F1 Racing - - POWER PLAY -

But where will Red Bull be in three years’ time? They have a con­tract with F1 un­til 2020, but no en­gine deal be­yond the end of 2016, when the Re­nault con­tract runs out.

Owner Di­et­rich Mates­chitz and motorsport boss Hel­mut Marko have both said in re­cent months that they may quit F1 if they do not have a com­pet­i­tive en­gine, and there is no ob­vi­ous route to ob­tain­ing one of those other than hop­ing that Re­nault sort them­selves out.

Abite­boul in­sists no de­ci­sion has been made on fu­ture strat­egy, but ad­mits that if they can’t solve the en­gine prob­lems by the end of 2016 – some­thing that may de­pend on the open­ing of in-sea­son de­vel­op­ment again next sea­son – Re­nault could pull out.

Another op­tion is for Re­nault to buy their own team and be­come an en­trant again. Horner says that even if they did, Red Bull would be happy to stay with them be­yond 2016 – as long as the en­gine is com­pet­i­tive. “What we re­ally need is for Re­nault to com­mit to make the in­vest­ment, make up their minds, to do it prop­erly or to stop,” he says.

But he adds: “Our prob­lem, and what Di­et­rich was re­fer­ring to, is that if Re­nault pull out, Mercedes and Fer­rari won’t sup­ply us an en­gine, Honda have got their lock-in with McLaren. There are no other op­tions.”

He rules out “cat­e­gor­i­cally” Red Bull build­ing their own en­gine – “the in­vest­ment, the in­fra­struc­ture, the lead time; there is no way” – and says that, de­spite re­cent re­ports “there has been no di­a­logue with Audi or VW”.

And if it’s 2016 and the en­gine still isn’t com­pet­i­tive but Re­nault still want to sup­ply them? “Then,” says Horner, “We have some big choices to make.” An­drew Ben­son is BBC Sport’s chief F1 writer

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