Red Bull Racing has revealed it will decide within a matter of days which engine it will run with in Formula 1 next year, with it hinting that Renault reliability issues could well sway it to switch to Mercedes-Benz.
As AUTOSPORT reported in April, Red Bull Racing has been chasing a Mercedes-Benz deal for 2010, and its hopes of a deal were boosted earlier this year when F1's rules were changed to allow manufacturers to supply up to four teams.
And although it appeared over the summer break that Renault was back in the frame at Red Bull following a major push about the French company's commitment to customers for next year, two engine failures for Sebastian Vettel in Valencia may well prove influential on the final decision.
Red Bull's motorsport advisor Helmut Marko confirmed on Tuesday that the team was now at the point where it would have to make a decision – with designs for the teams' RB6 already underway.
"Regarding the preparation for next year's car we have to sort this out by the end of August, thus within the next few days," he explained. "This is the last issue to decide in a big strategy.
"We have had our drivers' contracts extended. Moreover, all team personnel at the highest and next higher level are basically committed to us until 2012. That means we have continuity and stability within the team for the next few years."
He added: "There are good arguments for extending the Renault contract and there are good ones for a switch to Mercedes.
"Of course there are facts that cannot be ignored, be it the four engine failures Sebastian had this year, with two occurring the last weekend. The six Mercedes drivers had none this year."
Marko also said that he had no qualms about the quality of Mercedes-Benz engines being compromised by it supplying four teams – McLaren, Brawn GP, Force India and Red Bull – in the event of it concluding a deal.
"I am convinced they have the capacity to provide engines for four teams," he explained.
Red Bull Racing is locked in a title battle with Brawn, and Marko was optimistic that its struggles in Valencia were not unexpected – with him hopeful that tracks coming up on the calendar would favour the team's RB5.
"Trackwise, we expect to be strong once more in Spa, Monza, Suzuka and perhaps Sao Paulo. Abu Dhabi is new to everyone, so let's wait and see. We definitely knew before coming to Valencia that this will be our toughest race in the second half of the season."
And Marko has ruled out the use of KERS – even though the team said at the weekend it would evaluate its introduction on a race-by-race basis until the end of the season.
"We will not use KERS this season or next," he said. "To introduce it right now (in the title fight) would bear too much risk. Teams are free to use KERS in 2010 again as the FIA laid down, however there is an agreement within FOTA not to use it and we will follow this agreement".