Abiteboul set to join Red Bull despite ‘toxic relationship’ with Horner – Report

Christian Horner and Cyril Abiteboul often butted heads during Renault's time supplying Red Bull with engines in Formula 1's hybrid era.

Cyril Abiteboul is reportedly set to join Red Bull following the Frenchman’s absence from Formula 1 in 2021.

Abiteboul left his position as managing director of Renault ahead of the 2021 season, having led the team since 2016.

He replaced Frederic Vasseur part-way through what was a disappointing season for the team – they managed just three points finishes all year between Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer.

However, this was not the only tricky aspect that the former Caterham team principal had to deal with.

He was also having to manage relations with Red Bull which, since the turn of the hybrid era in 2014, had deteroriated.

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Just three wins through Daniel Ricciardo in 2014 and a failure to win at all in 2015 led the Milton Keynes-based team to remove Renault branding from their car, replacing it with Tag Heuer.

This preceded two slightly more competitive years in 2017 and 2018, but persistent engine failures for both Ricciardo and Max Verstappen became all too much for Red Bull, who dropped the French manufacturer ahead of the 2019 season, instead opting for Honda.

During his time with Renault, Abiteboul endured a lot of run-ins with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who fired shots at Renault due to the lack of reliability of their power units.

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Constant bickering in the media between the two proved comical in the world of F1, with the petulance of what was becoming an incrementally personal battle amusing many.

Verstappen found himself out of the 2018 Hungarian Grand Prix just five laps into the race – one of seven reliability-related retirements that year for the team.

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This led to a string of expletives over the radio from the Dutchman and Horner, who had already announced that Red Bull would be dropping Renault as their supplier ahead of the weekend.

“We pay multi millions of pounds for these engines, for a first class or state-of-the-art product and you can see that it’s quite some way below that,” Horner told Sky Sports after the race.

Abiteboul’s immediate response summarised what had become an extremely toxic relationship.

“Our bosses have stopped reading what Christian Horner is saying about us since 2015,” he affirmed.

“It’s very clear that we don’t want to have any dealings with them any more. It’s very clear it’s done.

“They will have their engine partner that will be paying a hell of a lot of money to get their product on board, and I wish them good luck. I have nothing else to say.”

Cyril Abiteboul and Christian Horner at the 2019 Monaco GP.v1

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Following Verstappen’s dramatic championship success in 2021, Honda are now leaving Red Bull following their decision to quit Formula 1.

Red Bull will be making their own powertrains from 2022 onwards, but Honda’s F1 chief Masashi Yamamoto has confirmed that the Japanese manufacturer will be happy to support and advise in the process.

Now, in an unbelievable turn of events, Abiteboul, who has endured a torrid relationship with Red Bull, is reported to have agreed a deal with the team to head up their newly formed powertrains division.

This has been revealed by Japanese site Autosport Web, who cited a Red Bull source as saying “Abiteboul has agreed in principle to become head of Red Bull Powertrains and manage the non-technical side of the business.”

These reports are as yet unconfirmed by either party, but while the Frenchman’s signing would be a strange one given the relationship, it may be a shrewd move.

The 44-year-old was executive director of Renault Sport between 2010 and 2012, meaning he helped oversee three of Sebastian Vettel’s four Renault-powered championships with Red Bull.

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