The future in Formula One of Red Bull and their sister team Toro Rosso remained uncertain amid much speculation on Friday as commercial ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone intervened.
Ecclestone held talks with Red Bull’s senior management, whose owner and boss Dietrich Mateschitz has made clear that he will pull them out of the sport if the team do not find a competitive engine supplier for next year.
After a further meeting with Mercedes, he was as enigmatic as ever, but suggested that Red Bull and Toro Rosso will still be on the Formula One grid in 2016.
Asked if he was certain that 22 cars would line up next year, he said: “Yes, for sure,” adding: “It’s all been sorted.”
However, Ecclestone also said he was not clear on what the outcome would be.
“I don’t know, honestly. I think enough has been said about these engines and I don’t want to make any more comments,” he told Sky Sports.
“I think it’s been cleared up. I haven’t spoken to Dietrich Mateschitz. He knows what he’s doing.”
Many paddock observers believe it is possible that Red Bull could return to Renault for a further year after being rejected by both Mercedes and Ferrari.
Mercedes said they did not want to supply them and Ferrari said they would not give them the same engines as those used by their own factory race team.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner said: “There are lots of discussions going on, but nothing is concluded, nothing is confirmed. Bernie has influence.
“He is a promoter, he wants Red Bull to be there — all the teams, Lotus included. He has been very helpful in trying to navigate a way through these issues.”
Red Bull have grown frustrated with Renault, who are in talks to buy the Lotus team, and have given notice that they will not be using them next year although they have a contract that runs to the end of 2017.
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff has made clear they are not interested. “The situation hasn’t changed,” he said. “We have decided not to pursue that option.”
Mercedes has instead agreed a deal to supply engines to the Manor Marussia team next season.
Red Bull’s Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo believes that staying with Renault may end up being one of his team’s best options for next year, but only if the French engines are more competitive than they have been this season.
“Obviously I want to be racing next year, I want a seat and I want to be on the grid,” said Ricciardo.
“But if someone said we’re going to be racing — but we’re going to be 16th — then maybe I don’t want to be racing.
“So, if they (Renault) can prepare something better than we’ve had this year, and it gives us a chance to fight further up the grid, then yes, it’s one of our better options for now.”
Red Bull team-mate Daniil Kvyat, preparing for his home race, was happy to leave the engines problem to his team.
“I have no idea about these talks with Renault, Ferrari, Mercedes, Lamborghini or whoever it is. We just have to be patient at this stage,” said the Russian.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who won four world titles with Red Bull, said it would be a huge shock if they and Toro Rosso pulled out of F1.
“I have strong links to Red Bull and I know the team like the back of my hand,” he said.
“This is why I struggle to imagine them to pull out. I hope they will stay.”
Ferrari offered to supply Red Bull with engines that were a level below those of their own race team, as agreed with the Haas and Sauber teams, but Red Bull rejected that offer.