Sep.25 (GMM/Inautonews.com) There was almost as much action going on behind the scenes as there was on a slippery Suzuka circuit on Friday.
The big topic is engines — who is going to get what, and who is going to left without a ‘power unit’ to fire.
For Lotus, time is clearly running out. Bernie Ecclestone told a media outlet on Friday that – with a potentially terminal court date looming – Monday is the Enstone team’s deadline for a deal with Renault.
That could explain the odd timing of Pastor Maldonado’s 2016 deal, long after the sun had gone down in Singapore.
“I have always tried to respect our contract, and now it is confirmed,” said the Venezuelan.
It is rumoured that, even with Renault believed to have now signed an ‘option’ to buy Lotus, the Enstone team is currently so short on cash that it needs PDVSA to make the first payment of 2016 immediately.
Indeed, mechanics are locked out of the Suzuka hospitality area due to not paying a bill to the Honda-owned circuit, and so Lotus has publicly thanked F1 supremo Ecclestone for giving them free access to the $4000 per-head paddock club.
Two more teams that could be left stranded are Red Bull and Toro Rosso, as owner Dietrich Mateschitz warns that they either get an ‘A’ spec Ferrari unit for 2016 or he will pull out of the sport.
Red Bull is openly admitting that the Renault deal is dead, and “As far as anything else, it’s purely speculative but of course we’re having various different conversations,” Christian Horner said at Suzuka on Friday.
One of those discussions is obviously with Ferrari, whose engine cheif Luigi Fraboni admitted that his bosses are currently in a decision-making period.
“For sure they have all the information they need in order to have the right collaboration for next year,” he added.
Asked if Ferrari has the capacity to supply both Red Bull and Toro Rosso in 2016, he answered: “I think it could be (possible), yes.”
However, there remain doubts that Ferrari actually can add two more customers to its roster at such short notice, particularly as it will also begin working with Haas in 2016.
That is why there are rumours that Honda may be forced by the FIA to step up to the plate with a customer deal for Toro Rosso.
Honda’s Yasuhisa Arai commented: “We don’t have any offers right now. We don’t have any (other) plans.”
Red Bull has ruled out working with struggling Honda, so the only other option might be Audi, who are rumoured to be contemplating a F1 project.
“But I don’t think we need to be talking about that for next year,” Horner told Auto Motor und Sport.
And with the VW diesel emissions scandal worsening by the day, the Red Bull chief also told the US broadcaster NBC: “That (the Audi deal) seemed to go up in smoke.”