Renault is seeking a fresh customer supply deal with Red Bull for 2017, sources have revealed, amid hopes that it can get the situation sorted as early as the end of this month.
After the long-standing partnership between the manufacturer and team nearly collapsed last year, the two parties were forced to continue for this season after Red Bull failed to secure an alternative engine deal with Mercedes, Ferrari or Honda.
That contract, which allows Red Bull to rebrand the engines as TAG Heuer, finishes at the end of this year – and it had been previously been thought that Renault would want to focus on its work team rather than have a customer base.
However, sources with good knowledge of the situation say that the promising progress made by the power unit – and the clear benefits of the giving the Renault team a chassis performance benchmark with Red Bull – have left it eager to extend its partnership.
Renault team principal Frederic Vasseur thinks that continuing with Red Bull for 2017 and beyond is essential to help his outfit better understand its level of progress.
“To be honest, I think it is the best thing that could happen to Enstone,” he told Motorsport.com. “It is very important to have a benchmark.
“So far we know that Red Bull is one of the best chassis on the grid and it is important for us to know exactly where we are, and what will be the target in the short term view.
“To be honest I will push as much as I can for it to stay like this.”
When asked if there were fears that having a rival as strong as Red Bull with the same engine would put too much pressure on his his team, Vasseur said: “We have to manage the pressure, and we have to live under the pressure.
“If you don't, you have to stay at home and change your job. Pressure is the best thing to push the team and we need to do it.”
It is understood that internal discussions have already taken place inside Renault to green light efforts to conclude a new Red Bull deal.
The discussions with Red Bull are also likely to progress quickly because under new regulations for 2017 that have been agreed between the manufacturers and the FIA, a firm timetable is now in place for when decisions have to be taken.
This means it is now impossible for teams to be left in a situation like Red Bullfaced last year where they do not have access to an engine even at a late stage of the season.
Under the terms of the new F1 engine regulations, by this Friday (May 6), manufacturers have to notify the FIA of their intention to supply teams with engines for next year.
By May 15, the manufacturers have to notify the FIA of the list of teams with which it has concluded agreements with.
Before June 1, if not enough teams have engines, then the FIA can call upon a manufacturer to supply more teams.
With 11 outfits on the grid, and there being four manufacturers, under a formula agreed it means each must supply a minimum of three teams.
Ferrari (Ferrari, Sauber, Haas, Toro Rosso) and Mercedes (Mercedes, Williams, Force India, Manor) are already above that level – which means only Renault and Honda could be asked to supply extra teams.
But with Renault eager to continue its customer base, and its engine progress delivering on track, the main hurdle to overcome between Red Bull and Renault will now likely be commercial terms.