Count Infiniti Red Bull Racing Boss Christian Horner among the skeptics as Formula 1 prepares to shift to new turbocharged four-cylinder engines next year after using 2.4-liter V-8s since 2006.
Meeting with a small group of journalists shortly before the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, he called the new turbo engines an “immature technology” and said the move is a “fuel-economy drive,” something he thinks won’t be positive for F1.
“I think the engine rule is going to make racing very complicated next year,” he said, noting it would be the top thing he’d change about F1’s upcoming regulations.
Obviously, Horner has a vested interest in the status quo, as the Red Bull team principal has overseen the sport’s greatest success story in recent years. Not since the Michael Schumacher-led Ferrari teams of a decade ago has a squad dominated Grand Prix competition like Red Bull, which has won four straight constructors’ titles thanks to the dominance of German Sebastian Vettel, who also has won the drivers’ title each year.
Given his choice, Horner would keep the V-8 powerplant or even go back to the days of V-10 power.
“I think they sound fantastic,” he said.
Horner is less enthusiastic about the 1.6-liter four-cylinders, which will make about 600 hp but can get an extra 160 hp of boost for 33 seconds a lap, thanks to new energy recovery systems. The naturally aspirated 2.4-liter V-8s used in the 2013 season make about 750 hp.
“It [the four-cylinder engine] sounds different. You’ll get used to it,” he said, not very convincingly.
The engine switch come as F1 prepares to enter a new era of technology in 2014. Other changes include new gearboxes (with eight instead of the seven ratios used now), new exhaust setups, new rear wings, and an increase in the minimum allowable weight.
Red Bull will be undergoing a transition of its own next season. Veteran Mark Webber is retiring from F1, though he will move to Porsche’s endurance-car efforts. He’ll be replaced by Daniel Ricciardo, who comes over from Red Bull’s other F1 team, Scuderia Toro Rosso.
“Our goal will be to try to keep the trophies in the cabinet,” Horner said.
Clad in a blue, red, and yellow Red Bull team shirt, Horner addressed a range of topics and was in no rush to get through his interview, even though the Grand Prix would start less than two hours from the session. Appearing relaxed and confident the day after he turned 40 years old, he expressed optimism F1 could take off in the United States if a homegrown driver achieves success.
“I think America needs to find a Vettel,” he said, comparing it to Spain’s strong interest in F1 thanks to the success of native son and Ferrari ace Fernando Alonso.
While Horner is skeptical of the turbo four-cylinders, he’s even less excited about the prospect of all-electric racing. The FIA-sanctioned Formula E series launches next year.
“As a purist, it leaves me cold,” he said.
He added that F1 is about “running at the limit.”
“I think take away that and you really damage the appeal of the sport,” he said.