Red Bull may have signed Mercedes’ engine chief, Ben Hodgkinson, but the Silver Arrows are trying everything they can to delay the move.
Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull, said they were only looking at the very best names to form their Powertrains division as they prepare to bring their engine operation in-house once partners Honda leave at the end of the 2021 season.
And Red Bull wasted little time delivering on that promise by signing one of the key figures from their main rivals Mercedes. Hodgkinson’s arrival was confirmed last Friday, but now there is a wrangle over when he can actually start work with them.
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In the immediate hours after Hodgkinson’s confirmation, German outlet Auto Motor und Sport ran a report which said that he could be waiting until the end of 2022 before he can start to have an influence as Red Bull’s engine technical director.
And Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, Dr Helmut Marko, has confirmed Mercedes are doing all they can to prolong Hodgkinson’s ‘gardening leave’ period so his transfer of knowledge on the Mercedes power unit has as little impact as possible.
However, he thinks the delay will not be as long as Mercedes want.
“Mercedes is now trying everything legally to delay starting work,” Marko told F1-Insider.
“But it won’t take as long as Mercedes would like.”
The assumption made upon confirmation of Hodgkinson’s signature was that Red Bull were able to pinch him away from Mercedes, but Marko revealed that was not how the move played out.
He continued: “The decisive factor is that we didn’t have to poach him, but he applied for our ad on his own.
“Nor is he the only one who wants to see us. There are also other top-class players whose names I cannot yet name.”
Marko also suggested that Hodgkinson’s move to Red Bull wouldn’t have happened on Niki Lauda’s watch if he was still with us.
“I only know one thing: if Niki Lauda were still alive, we would not have succeeded,” he said.