Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko says the team could walk away from Formula One after 2020 if Formula One does not secure an independent engine supplier by the end of this year.
F1 recently agreed on cheaper and louder engines for 2021 onwards to replace the unpopular 1.6-litre V6 turbo hybrids introduced in 2014. The finer points will be discussed in the coming years but one of the points of agreement was to deliver more powerful engines while also making them simpler and less costly to develop and produce.
The agreement did not specifically mention an independent engine supply -- something which would give teams the chance to pick up an engine off the shelf if it could not reach without having to turn to one of F1's existing manufacturers. Marko has hinted that finding one by the end of 2017 could determine F1's future beyond 2020.
"The latest must be 2021 that an independent engine supplier comes into F1," Marko told F1's official website. "This is more than necessary, and the engine has to be simple, noisy and on the cost side below 10 million.
"We are talking about a much less sophisticated engine than what we have now, a simple racing engine. There are enough companies around that could supply. So we expect from the new owners together with the FIA to find a solution at the latest by the end of this season. If that doesn't happen our stay in F1 is not secured."
In 2015 Ferrari vetoed a planned €12 million cost cap on F1 customer engines, prompting the FIA to pursue a cheaper alternative "budget engine" in an attempt to control the spirrlling costs of engines for smaller teams. Despite "four credible Expressions of Interest" from viable manufacturers, the F1 Commission rejected the FIA's plan.
Those discussions came during Red Bull's acrimonious fall-out with engine supplier Renault, with the Austrian team threatening to quit on that occasion if it could not find a competitive power unit for the following season. However, discussions with Mercedes, Ferrari and Honda led to nothing, meaning Red Bull briefly voiced their support for an independent engine it could use for the 2016 season. Eventually, Red Bull signed a new deal with Renault for 2016 which agreed its engines would be rebranded TAG Heuer.