One the biggest stories over the weekend of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was that Red Bull Racing had finally secured an engine deal for the 2016 season.
Everyone at RBR was staying tight-lipped about the details, though team boss Christian Horner cryptically told the BBC that McLaren team principal Ron Dennis “wouldn’t like it.” Now we know why.
Despite its very public spat with existing supplier Renault throughout the 2015 season, Red Bull will continue to use the French manufacturer’s power units in 2016. However, the engines will carry TAG branding, after the Milton Keynes squad snaffled a sponsorship deal with luxury watchmaker TAG Heuer from McLaren.
TAG Heuer had sponsored McLaren for over 30 years. Indeed, the Woking team used TAG-branded Porsche engines from ’83 to ’87 (TAG Group bought Swiss watchmaker Heuer in ’85), taking a run of three Drivers’ titles. After the link-up between Red Bull and TAG Heuer was announced, Dennis admitted to falling out with TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Bivet.
It gets more complicated than that though, as TAG Heuer is currently owned by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH which also owns Chandon; Dennis says McLaren has “acquired” Chandon, whatever that means.
Whatever the financial arrangements are, the loss of TAG Heuer deals a further blow to the beleaguered McLaren team, which suffered its worst season in decades after adopting the new Honda engine this year. The team has been without a title sponsor since its deal with Vodafone ended after the 2013 season. It’s thought TAG’s switch could cost McLaren as much as £20 million.
Renault will be working with British firm Ilmor to develop its 2016 engine. Having struggled to deliver a competitive package since the current turbo hybrid engines were introduced in 2014, Renault has to get next year’s power unit right; as well as its renewed relationship with Red Bull, Renault will run its own factory team having completed a deal to take over Lotus.
Red Bull also announced it is splitting from title sponsor Infiniti, the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s luxury brand. That’s hardly surprising as in three years about the only payback Infiniti had from the tie-up was the over-wrought Vettel edition of the FX SUV. And the Toro Rosso junior team will use Ferrari engines in 2016.
By Only Motors