Red Bull, Renault brush off ‘break-up’
THE Formula One giants Renault and Red Bull have described as “speculation” reports that they will be ending their engine partnership after next season.
The pair won four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles together at the turn of the decade but the relationship has been fractious since a new 1.6 litre V6 turbo hybrid power unit was introduced in 2014.
Renault’s engines have proved less competitive than those of rivals Mercedes and Ferrari, bringing the pair to the brink of a divorce that was only averted when Red Bull failed to find an alternative supply.
The team currently run Renault engines under TAGHeuer branding.
“We will have a TAG Heuer Renault-provided engine and that will be the case for next year,” Red Bull principal Christian Horner said. “Anything beyond that is speculation, conjecture, and there will be all kinds of rumours, I’m sure, between now and then.’’
With Honda leaving McLaren for Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso, that deal allows Red Bull to evaluate the Japanese manufacturer’s performance next season with a view to subsequently using Honda engines as well.
Should Renault decide not to supply Red Bull after next year, the team owned by Austrian energy drinks billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz would have no choice but to run Honda in 2019. That could make it hard for it to hang on to its race-winning drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
“It’s down to us to produce a good car, be competitive and then, of course, why would the drivers want to be anywhere else?” said Horner. CAM Waters has taken pole position for today’s Sandown 500 on a qualifying day marred by a major crash to Supercars young gun Todd Hazelwood.
Waters, with Kiwi co-driver Richie Stanaway, stole a march on their more experienced rivals yesterday and will share the front row of the grid with the fellow Falcon of series leader Scott McLaughlin.
The Prodrive Racing pair combined beautifully in Melbourne.
Stanaway surged to be third with stunning ease after the co-drivers’ qualifying race. Watch live on FoxSports from 8.30am today
Waters finished the job in the full-time drivers’ race by jumping front-row starters McLaughlin and David Reynolds off the line.
He held off a determined challenge for McLaughlin to grab a second pole position of his Supercars career.
“I’m absolutely pumped and didn’t expect it,” Waters said. “From the start the car was amazing.
“We’re in with a really good shot.
“I wanted to do a burnout at the end but it wasn’t a race.”
Stanaway said it was a “perfect day today. . . an amazing result for the team”.
McLaughlin will be content with second place, although Jamie Whincup - his closest championship rival - lurks behind in fourth.
Reynolds and Luke Youlden piloted the best-performed Holden, and will begin in third.
Reynolds said the team had been concerned after Friday’s sessions in which they had been slow in the wet conditions.
“But we didn’t change the car since we rolled out, we stuck with our base set-up and it’s obviously paid off. It’s a jet,’’ he said.
The third row of the grid will be filled with two more Falcons - Fabian Coulthard of DJR Team Penske and Chaz Mostert, who smashed his own race lap record.
Meanwhile, Brad Jones Racing will be a car down for today’s race after Hazelwood’s astonishing crash.
The 21-year-old was sent hurtling into the tyre wall from a 260km/h straight after Jono Webb failed to yield in the codrivers’ race. His Commodore was wrecked in the impact, while Hazelwood was able to walk away and later raced in the development series.
Webb’s Tekno Autosports Holden couldn’t complete qualifying and - if repaired will start from the back today.
Reigning champion Shane van Gisbergen has it all to do today after a dire day.
He tangled with Coulthard in practice, saw co-driver Matt Campbell miss the start in his race before botching a passing move of his own to finish 19th.
Team-mate Craig Lowndes also suffered from a power steering issue and will start from 24th in the 500km classic.
CLASSIC DRIVE: Cameron Waters in action at Sandown Raceway in Victoria yesterday in preparation for today’s Sandown 500.