Renault jump to Mercedes’ defence over Red Bull dispute

Christian Horner and Toto Wolff's war of words in the media has continued in 2023.

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer insists that powertrain supplier Renault wants the 2026 engine regulations to remain as they are, something Mercedes also want to see happen.

Szafnauer’s comments regarding the new power unit regulations in 2026 have been made following concerns raised by Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

Horner has insisted that tweaks to the 2026 regulations are made, amid concerns that the drivers will have to downshift on the straights to regenerate their batteries.

“F1 needs to be wheel-to-wheel racing,” Horner said.

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“We can’t afford to lose that challenge and have drivers downshifting on the straights to regenerate batteries.”

Ferrari reportedly back Horner’s concerns, whilst Wolff believes the Red Bull team principal is trying to protect his team.

Wolff thinks Horner is trying to get the regulations changed to improve Red Bull’s performance, with the Austrian pondering whether the Milton Keynes-based team’s engine programme isn’t “coming along” as planned.

“I think what frightens him is maybe that his engine programme is not coming along and maybe he wants to kill it that way,” Wolff said.

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As it stands, Szafnauer agrees with Wolff and wants to see the 2026 regs kept the same, with the Romanian-American having shared that Renault are “happy”.

“Speaking to the powertrain guys we want to keep it as is,” Szafnauer said.

“Now I don’t deeply follow it, I wasn’t involved in the negotiations and the reasons why, but I asked them those questions. And yeah, we’re happy to keep it as is. So I would imagine it’s going to be unlikely that it’s changed.”

The 2026 split between battery and engine power is the source of Horner’s concerns, to the extent where the Briton has warned of a “technical Frankenstein”.

Szafnauer doesn’t think this is the case though, with the Alpine boss recalling how many concerns were present ahead of the 2022 aerodynamic regulations.

“We haven’t quite gotten that far yet, we haven’t determined that yet,” Szafnauer said. “I hope it isn’t a Frankenstein package.

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“I remember being in all the meetings to determine what the regulations are now, and everybody, including me, said all the racing is going to be horrible, all the cars are going to look the same, it’s not going to be F1 anymore, and all that.

“That really didn’t happen.

“So it’s hard to predict the future, especially when the [chassis] regulations haven’t been determined yet. Hopefully we’ll get there.”