So it’s mid-October, and in both Formula 1 and IndyCar, the story of silly season 2015 is not about the drivers behind the wheel, but more about the lumps giving the drivers the power with which to do so.
The war in IndyCar has gone on more behind-the-scenes between Honda and Chevrolet as it relates to performance clauses and what can or can’t be updated for 2016.
However F1’s engine battle has been a very public spat, and been the dominant silly season storyline this fall.
F1’s driver silly season never really got going for next season. As my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith has chronicled, the one potential domino that could have made things interesting – Kimi Raikkonen’s status at Ferrari – will go unchanged into 2016.
As such, it leaves with a grid where the lineups at Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Force India, Sauber and most recently McLaren are confirmed to stay the same for 2016.
The only driver switch at present is Romain Grosjean leaving the unsettled, fluid situation at Lotus to lead Haas F1 Team’s charge in its maiden season.
This brings us then, simply, to the Red Bull teams.
Red Bull may give you wings, and wings right now are all that’s confirmed to power the teams into 2016.
A season-long row, spat, disagreement or whatever word you want to call it has occurred between Red Bull and Renault to the point where Red Bull has threatened to pull out of Formula 1 – which would leave its quartet of talented youngsters, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. – all sidelined. Let alone all its talented mechanics and crew.
Mercedes has already moved its fourth engine supply from Lotus to Manor, and Ferrari has proposed offering a 2015 power unit, neither of which were really feasible solutions for Red Bull and by default, Toro Rosso as well.
It’s then left the two parties in a proverbial stalemate, where Red Bull needs Renault more than Renault needs Red Bull.
And in social terms, it’s a case of Red Bull needing to go back to the girl they want to dump, because it’s their only option. Perhaps it’s no coincidence the term “F1 booty call” was occasionally used on social media over the weekend to describe the situation.
The Red Bull quit threat, unfortunately, continues to persist. Adrian Newey, the sport’s most successful designer, has reiterated the concerns in an interview with Reuters over the weekend.
“Unfortunately, our relationship with Renault is pretty terminal — there’s been too much of a marriage breakdown, so we have no engine,” Newey told Reuters while in Abu Dhabi to judge the Nissan PlayStation GT Academy.
“Red Bull should not be put in a position where they’re only there to make up the numbers,” he added, noting the desired need for improvement from Renault.
One could argue, of course, that Newey’s departure has had a psychological effect on the team, perhaps as much if not a greater impact than Renault’s engine woes. And easy as it is to forget, Ricciardo still won three Grands Prix a year ago and was in mathematical championship contention until the final few races of the season.
Think in Renault’s case as well, that as a sole constructor and owner of Lotus as it is shaping up to be next year, it would behoove them to have a second set of data at its disposal, rather than going solo without another team. See Honda and McLaren for how that’s gone this year…
The fact that Red Bull has opted to go for the nuclear threat in print of quitting when all it’s really had is a bad year – something it’s experienced plenty both early in its own team lifespan, and in its prior guises as Jaguar and Stewart dating to the Stewart team’s inception in 1997 – really smacks of poor professionalism, unbecoming of the brand.
Red Bull didn’t get the top of the mountain in the business world, and in F1, without a desire to be the best.
But in the interest of becoming a true fabric of the F1 community through both thick and thin – as teams like Ferrari, Williams and McLaren have done for decades – it needs to take a step back, chalk 2015 up as a year to forget and figure out a way to bury the hatchet so it doesn’t leave all the affected individuals high and dry.