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Christian Horner: Red Bull team principal says engine talks with McLaren are ‘only natural’

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Red Bull’s Christian Horner and McLaren’s Andrea Stella have confirmed engine talks between the Formula 1 rivals following Zak Brown’s visit to the constructors’ champions Milton Keynes factory; McLaren weighing up engine options ahead of introduction of new regulations for 2026 season

Last Updated: 09/03/23 9:46am


McLaren chief Zak Brown (R) has visited Red Bull headquarters for talks with Christian Horner (L)

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has confirmed talks have taken place with McLaren over becoming their Formula 1 rivals’ engine supplier in 2026.

The sport’s regulations are set for major change ahead of the 2026 season, with engines to be modified to use less energy and produce net zero CO2 emissions.

Reigning constructors’ champions Red Bull are one of six manufacturers to have signed up to be engine suppliers in 2026, when they will begin a partnership with Ford, while McLaren, who are currently supplied by Mercedes, have yet to decide what they will do under the new regulations.

Reports emerged in February that McLaren chief executive Zak Brown visited Red Bull Powertrains, the team’s engine division, and Horner confirmed the meeting ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, which saw his driver Max Verstappen lead a dominant one-two from team-mate Sergio Perez.

“I thought he was coming for lunch!” Horner joked when asked about the meeting.

Max Verstappen sent an ominous warning to his rivals as he cruised to win the season opener in Bahrain

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Max Verstappen sent an ominous warning to his rivals as he cruised to win the season opener in Bahrain

Max Verstappen sent an ominous warning to his rivals as he cruised to win the season opener in Bahrain

“As a power-unit manufacturer for 2026, discussions are going to be held regarding potential power-unit supply.

“It’s only natural that we would talk to potential customers.”

When asked about the talks, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella pointed to a “solid partnership” with Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP), but admitted the Woking-based team are considering their options.

“It’s obvious that looking far forward, you want to understand what’s available,” said the Italian.

“It shouldn’t be much of a surprise.”

Andrea Stella has replaced Andreas Seidl as McLaren team principal

Andrea Stella has replaced Andreas Seidl as McLaren team principal

McLaren are also understood to have been in dialogue with Honda, as the Japanese manufacturer considers an official return to the sport in 2026.

Honda have registered, along with Red Bull Ford, Ferrari, Mercedes, Alpine and Audi, having given up their status as a manufacturer after powering Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to the 2021 drivers’ title. However, Honda have remained in the sport in a power-unit support deal with Red Bull, which runs until the end of the 2025 season.

Addressing McLaren’s future plans at his team’s car launch in February, Brown said: “We have some time to decide what we want to do in 2026 and beyond.

Highlights of the F1 2023 season opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix

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Highlights of the F1 2023 season opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix

Highlights of the F1 2023 season opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix

“It’s something that (McLaren team principal) Andrea (Stella) and I are in the process of slowly reviewing. We’re not in a big rush and we are very happy with Mercedes.”

McLaren and Honda have a mercurial history, having won championships together in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before enduring lows of an uncompetitive engine and a messy divorce in the late 2010s.

The talks between Red Bull and McLaren provide evidence that relationships can be quickly mended in F1, with Horner and Brown having clashed last season after the latter demanded strong punishment for Red Bull’s breach of the sport’s budget cap in 2021.

Christian Horner claims that for Red Bull to be accused of fraudulent activity is 'shocking' as he responds to Zak Brown's letter

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Christian Horner claims that for Red Bull to be accused of fraudulent activity is ‘shocking’ as he responds to Zak Brown’s letter

Christian Horner claims that for Red Bull to be accused of fraudulent activity is ‘shocking’ as he responds to Zak Brown’s letter

Horner dismisses ‘amusing’ AlphaTauri speculation

Horner also used the opening weekend of the season to dismiss reports that his team’s parent company were considering selling sister team AlphaTauri, or relocating the Italian squad to the UK.

It had been claimed the new head of sports at the Red Bull Group, which owns both the reigning constructors’ champions and AlphaTauri, was questioning the costs of running a second team.

Horner and AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost have both dismissed reports that Red Bull's sister team could be sold or relocated

Horner and AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost have both dismissed reports that Red Bull’s sister team could be sold or relocated

“As we all know, there’s plenty of speculation in this paddock,” said Horner. “So, it’s sometimes amusing to see how things get carried away. As far as I’m aware, there’s no changes planned.

“We have synergies and supply agreements with AlphaTauri where we supply various components.

“They share our wind tunnel, for example, as well. So there’s nothing planned.”

AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost previously said “the rumours have no foundation”, and he had held “very good meetings” with Red Bull Group sports boss Oliver Mintzlaff.

AlphaTauri, previously known as Toro Rosso, have enabled Red Bull to bring through many talented drivers from their academy, with the likes of Verstappen, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz some of the most notable names to break through with the Italian team.

However, the team opted to alter their usual approach this year, preferring to sign former Mercedes reserve driver Nyck de Vries than promoting from their academy. De Vries is driving alongside Yuki Tsunoda, who is in his third season with the team at the age of just 22.

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