As the new-for-2014 engines inch ever closer to reality, several teams are still yet to tie down deals.
Ferrari and Mercedes will obviously be remaining with in-house engines, while Red Bull’s long term partnership with Infiniti, aka Renault, means that the reigning champions will continue to be motored by French power. McLaren and Mercedes will continue their relationship into a final, and probably frosty, twentieth season, while Force India has signed a lengthy contract with the three pointed star.
Caterham’s eponymous sister road car company has a deal with Renault’s Alpine branch to produce and develop a sports car. Logically, Caterham will continue with Renault. Sauber is expected to continue a relationship with Ferrari that dates back to 1997, albeit one which included a four year hiatus when BMW briefly entered the fray.
That leaves Lotus, Williams, Toro Rosso and Marussia.
Lotus has long been supplied by Renault and although the French manufacturer could have the upper hand in negotiations, it’d be a surprise if that relationship didn’t continue. Toro Rosso wants to jump ship to Renault to join sister team Red Bull, while Williams has an option for 2014. Rumours in the German press suggest that Williams is a little unhappy at the asking price of Renault’s 2014 engines, leading to speculation that the Grove based team will switch to Mercedes. We shall see.
Marussia has been supplied by Cosworth since their debut in the sport, as Virgin Racing, in 2010. Cosworth will not be producing a 2014-spec engine, which leaves Marussia out in the cold. Technical director Pat Symonds recently said “I don't understand how Cosworth do what they do for the money, they do an absolutely fantastic job” and admitted that next year’s engines will be “a very, very significant fraction of our budget.”
The choice appears to be between Mercedes and Ferrari.
“Renault has made it clear they've got enough on their plate. Both Ferrari and Mercedes have been very positive with us.”
There is of course the link with Jules Bianchi…
“It absolutely hasn't done us any harm; it's brought us a little bit closer to Ferrari. But Ferrari genuinely wants more teams: because everything is so new, I hesitate to call us guinea pigs or anything like that, but it's better to have a few more samples of your product out there, finding out what goes wrong and what's working. I think that they wanted another team anyway and the contact through Jules has done nothing but help.”
So Ferrari seems a logical choice for Marussia, particularly if the Prancing Horse loses Toro Rosso to Renault.
But here’s another suggestion.
How about a Marussia-Honda in 2014?
Honda’s return to Formula 1 with McLaren wasn’t a huge surprise and while McLaren and Honda will have a very close relationship, it isn’t exclusive.
“All engine suppliers coming in to F1 know they are doing so with the expectation that should they be required, they are prepared to supply more than one team,” McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale told Autosport.
While Honda can develop their engines throughout 2014, benefit from any potential changes and undertake testing – although that would be with a two year old car and is currently not on the radar – surely it’ll be preferable to have a second team for development purposes?
Perhaps Marussia and Honda – under their ‘Mugen’ moniker - could thrash out a deal that would be effective for both parties, assuming Honda could fast-track development and get an engine ready for 2014. After all, it isn’t exactly as if Honda hasn’t been working on the V6 engine for a while. Marussia would have an engine supplier – presumably at a much cheaper rate than Mercedes or Ferrari – while Honda has a season of racing experience out of the spotlight before their proper return in 2015.
And, now that Force India and Mercedes are tied in together, McLaren’s primary technical partnership is with Marussia...
It’s pure speculation, but it makes sense.