Wednesday March 9th, 2005
By Luis Vasconcelos
Red Bull Racing are close to securing the supply of Honda V8 engines for next year's Formula One World Championship, according to sources close to the team.
Dieter Mateschitz's team were the surprise star of this year's inaugural event, the Australian Grand Prix, but the success on the track didn't divert the Austrian's millionaire's attention from the building of an even better team and his negotiations with Honda have now reached the crucial and final moments.
Although money doesn't seem to be a problem for Red Bull Racing at the moment – the team spent 1.2 million Euros on a party for 3,000 guests in Melbourne – paying Cosworth in excess of 20 million dollars per year will sap the team's resources and that's why Mateschitz has been shopping around, trying to secure a deal with an engine manufacturer.
Although he was close to a deal with Toyota last September, the Austrian failed to agree terms with the Japanese manufacturer and had to pay Cosworth a very heavy bill to have the British V10 engines in the back of his cars this season. But now he's close to cutting his engine bill for 2006 by half, if the deal with Honda comes off.
For Honda, supplying a second team with engines would come as part of the manufacturers' strategy to secure the future of the four independent teams in the field, trying to attract them to the new series the GPWC is putting together for 2008.
Low cost supply of engines – rumored to be of around 10 million euro per year – has been part of the proposals put forward by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Renault - but so far only Honda and Toyota, who support GPWC's plans, have complied with this promises. Toyota are already supplying engines at a running cost to Jordan and Honda are getting ready to do the same with Red Bull from 2006.
Although he denied any deal had been done, Honda's F1 Project Leader, Takeo Kiuchi, admitted "some teams are interested in having our engines for next year and I know they have approached our president on that mater.
"Personally I would prefer to concentrate all our efforts into the relationship with BAR, but I'm not the one who decides on these matters and I can see us supplying a second team next year, in the best interests of the sport and as a mean to support the independent teams."
From Red Bull's side there was also no official confirmation of the deal, although Christian Horner, the 31-year old Sporting Director, said that, "there are two or three manufacturers that have shown interest in supplying engines to a team like ours, but we're also very happy with the work Cosworth has done so far.
"We're considering our options but I expect a decision to be reached soon. We are trying to secure the best possible future for Red Bull Racing and forging a partnership with an engine manufacturer is definitively the way to go to move closer to the front of the field."
Much as the Jordan-Toyota deal, the contract between Red Bull Racing and Honda will provide only for the supply of the Japanese engines to the Milton Keynes-based team, with no other transfer of technology between the two companies.
That special status is reserved for BAR, a team Honda have been working with for the past six years and now owns 45% of their shares, since a deal was struck in July of 2004.
Published at 11:04:29 GMT