Honda linked with Red Bull engine supply for 2016

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Red Bull’s search for an engine supplier ahead of the 2016 Formula 1 season has taken another turn after Honda emerged as a serious option on the Friday of the United States Grand Prix weekend.

Despite being just five months away from the first race of the 2016 season, Red Bull is without a firm power unit supplier after expressing a desire to cut ties with current partner Renault following a lacklustre campaign.

Red Bull believed that it could either secure an engine deal with Mercedes or Ferrari for 2016, but neither is comfortable with supplying one of its fiercest rivals a power unit comparable to that of its works teams.

As a result, both of the Red Bull owned teams – Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso – have been left scrambling for an engine supplier for 2016.

Mercedes has ruled out supplying either team, while NBC Sports understands that although a deal for Ferrari to power Toro Rosso is close, negotiations with Red Bull have stalled.

Conducting a massive u-turn and continuing with Renault power units for 2016 remains an option, but the French manufacturer has previously said that it is not looking to have any customer teams next season, so it can instead focus on its works return after taking over Lotus.

As such, the fourth and final F1 engine supplier – Honda – has now emerged as a serious option for Red Bull in 2016.

When asked about a possible deal by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton on Friday, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner remained coy, but admitted that a swift decision is required.

“Of course there’s a lot of speculation,” Horner said. “This week it’s Honda. It was Ferrari last week. Renault before that. There’s a lot of conversation in the background. When we have something concrete you’ll be the first to know.

“Time is pressing on. We do need to come to some decision in the near future. It’s an intense period. All the guys and girls are up for it and up for the challenge.”

Honda returned to the sport in 2015 in partnership with McLaren, but difficulties with its power unit have resigned the British team to one of its worst ever season in F1 with just 19 points to its name.

Given that Red Bull’s split with Renault has come about due to the team’s disappointment with the quality of the power unit, a move to a supplier that has fared even worse in 2015 may appear illogical.

What it will do is offer Red Bull a stop-gap to avoid breaching its commercial contract with F1 while also giving Honda the chance to increase the development of its power unit, given that it will have double the cars to work with.

Regardless of who the engine supplier is, a decision is required in the next week or two as the countdown to the 2016 season continues. There are already doubts about Red Bull’s chances of making the first pre-season test in Barcelona next February, and further delays would only underscore these.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III