One thing has become painfully clear in the 2021 Formula 1 season. While the title fight between Red Bull Racing and Mercedes-AMG Petronas has been unbelievably close, the raging bulls will need everything they can get to overtake the defending 7-time world champion driver Sir Lewis Hamilton and the ever-dominant constructor backing his performance. Of the four Grands Prix which have occurred, the former has been edged out of P1 by the latter, consistently finishing in P2 with only a single occasion where the finishing position was reversed (courtesy of young gun Max Verstappen). And while this season is still anyone’s game with another 19 races left on the calendar, if what we’re learning is true, Red Bull are already looking to close the margin and secure an advantage for the next year’s campaign through its new engine project.
As Honda prepares to exit Formula 1 entirely leaving both Red Bull Racing (RBR) and AlphaTauri without a power unit for 2022, an in-house engine project is reportedly in full swing. Having acquired the blueprints and associated intellectual property for the magic Honda has produced thus far, according to Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff, Red Bull aren’t exactly being polite about challenging their dynasty and establishing their own, either. To date,100 of his staff have been approached with a confirmed 15 defecting, most notably including the following:
- ex-Mercedes Head of Mechanical Engineering Ben Hodgkinson as RBR Technical Director
- ex-Mercedes Head of Manufacturing Steve Blewett as RBR Production Director
- ex-Mercedes F1 Electronics Team Leader Omid Mostaghimi as RBR Head of Powertrains Electronics & ERS.
- ex-Mercedes Power Unit Concept Team Leader Pip Close as RBR Head of Mechanical Design ERS
- ex-Mercedes Trackside & Final Inspection Manager Steve Brodie as RBR Group Leader ICE Operations
- ex-Mercedes Engineering Team Leader Anton Mayo as RBR Head of PU Design ICE
“Red Bull’s mission to bring all aspects of its Formula 1 operations in-house through Red Bull Powertrains is an enormously exciting undertaking, but also an extremely demanding one,” says Red Bull Racing Team Principal, Christian Horner.
“And we know that success will only be achieved by bringing in the best and brightest talent, by providing them with the right tools and by creating the right environment in which they can thrive.”
“Working with our new Technical Director, Ben Hodgkinson, and alongside key personnel retained from Honda Racing Development, each of the senior personnel announced bring a wealth of experience, expertise, and innovativity to the Red Bull Powertrains programme and provide us with the strongest possible technical platform for the future.”
When prompted about whether he would consider doubling salaries to ensure employee retention, here’s what Toto Wolff had to offer:
“Doubling the salaries is one thing but if you triple them, at some stage. you’re not going to be able to compete anymore, even for loyal people. It is what it is. I respect everybody that wants to defend or build his business and retaliation time has not yet come.”
The perennially unshaken Austrian, however, harbours no ill will. Rather he welcomes the challenge ahead.
“We have 900 or so employees there and if you’re fishing out 15 of these or so, it’s really normal. But they went mainly after manufacturing staff, so I guess it’s not performance – they want to build up the company… I’d like to have a fight with Red Bull power units.”