Dr Helmut Marko has revealed Red Bull expect a decision from the FIA next week about whether an engine freeze will be implemented in F1.
And if it is, that will signify the sound of the starting pistol for Red Bull to bring the Honda engine operation in-house.
Red Bull, and their sister team AlphaTauri, need to find an alternative source of power for when Honda withdraw from Formula 1 at the end of the forthcoming season.
Marko, head of Red Bull’s driver development programme and advisor to the team, said recently their “focus is entirely on the Honda project” in terms of acquiring the Japanese company’s intellectual property and taking over the programme themselves.
He rated the chances of that happening at “80-85%”, but stressed it depended largely on a freeze on engine development being introduced from 2022 in order to keep down the costs of remaining competitive with power-unit rivals Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.
The 77-year-old Austrian has now indicated such a decision is imminent and that Red Bull are all set to kick on with the project if the verdict goes their way.
“We are waiting for the FIA’s decision. A corresponding clarification should be made next week,” said Marko, quoted by Auto Motor Und Sport.
“Everything has been settled between us and Honda. The timing is set. Everyone is in the starting blocks. But there will only be an okay when we have written proof from the FIA that the development freeze on the engine side is coming.”
Red Bull are reliant upon Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault agreeing to the engine freeze and Marko said: “For Formula 1, it’s a very clear common-sense decision.”
He added that in addition to merely stipulating in the rulebook that engine development should be stopped, “that it will be regulated by the FIA in some way”.
Although Red Bull also have the much less palatable – from their perspective – alternative of reverting back to their previous engine supplier Renault, Marko insisted they had no fallback option in place.
Asked if there was a plan B if the Honda proposal fails, he said: “No, it does not exist.
“The engine freeze is the most important thing. The so-called safety net of alignment will certainly become more difficult. But if the development freeze is there, the whole project becomes easier for us to handle.”
Marko had previously said the Austrian energy drink giant could quit the sport if the engine freeze is vetoed, although denied that was “blackmail”.
“That would mean Red Bull had to rethink its Formula 1 situation drastically,” he said. “Due to reason and cost, an engine freeze is the only way with these unfortunate engines.”