They say all’s fair in love and war, and luring away personnel from your rival Formula 1 team’s power unit development division probably falls under the latter category. Red Bull had already announced in April that it had picked up Mercedes’s former head of mechanical engineering, Ben Hodgkinson, as its new technical director. Now five more new hires have come to light, and wouldn’t you know they’re all faces Hodgkinson will likely recognize around the office.
The news was broken earlier this morning by Motorsport.com:
Mercedes’ head of manufacturing Steve Blewett is to become Red Bull’s power unit production director.
Omid Mostaghimi, who is Mercedes’ F1 electronics team leader, will be Red Bull’s head of powertrains, electronics and ERS.
Pip Clode, who is Mercedes’ F1 power unit concept team leader, is to become Red Bull’s head of mechanical design ERS.
Anton Mayo, a Mercedes engineering team leader, will be head of power unit design ICE, while Steve Brodie, Mercedes’ F1 trackside and final inspection manager, will become Red Bull’s Group Leader ICE Operations.
Red Bull is assembling the best minds in the industry to develop its own power unit, to be used from 2025 onward. Honda, which currently constructs the engines in Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s F1 cars, will drop out of the sport after the conclusion of this season. From the start of 2022 until the beginning of 2025, there will be a freeze on power unit development; teams won’t be able to update their hardware in the final years of the current formula before the big regulation change.
That gives Red Bull a bit of breathing room as it inherits Honda’s engineering work and some of its staff — in addition to those great minds from Mercedes.
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Last week, Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport reported that Hodgkinson was attempting to convince a few Mercedes employees to follow him to the Austrian team, causing “alarm” at the reigning champion constructor. Mercedes has had the best-performing engine on the grid ever since Ferrari was quietly punished for its 2019 fuel-flow transgressions, and whatever the staff’s learned since then they’ll now carry to Red Bull’s research and development.
And Red Bull may yet gain further support from a major manufacturer — something Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff slyly hinted at during an interview before last weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix (with Red Bull’s Christian Horner in the room!). From Ars Technica:
“I think the right strategic steps have been, as far as I can see, set in motion from Red Bull,” Wolff said. “I think they are going dual-track with their own power unit and maybe with a new OEM joining in, and that’s certainly intelligent, and the arrangement that has been found with Honda in carrying over the IP is also clever.
Word on the street is that the OEM Wolff is referring to is Porsche, who has been surprisingly active in shaping the 2025 engine regulations despite not officially being involved in Formula 1. In March, it was reported that Porsche was gearing up to enter the sport, perhaps as a full-on constructor or maybe just a power unit partner for a team like Red Bull. Hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer to find out — the rumors and intrigue are reaching critical mass.