“If we don’t have a competitive engine, we will leave Formula One,” Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko told Sky Sports television, confirming also that the team’s fractured relationship with Renault was set to end.
“We always have been a customer, we always paid for our engine, we never got it for free. The performance was just not there and so we decided we will split.”
Marko was commenting after Renault head Carlos Ghosn made clear this week that the French carmaker would either buy a team or leave the sport, rather than remaining as an engine supplier to others.
Having recorded just two podium finishes this season, both in Hungary, the team has had little to celebrate this year.
But things took a turn for the better on Friday with Daniil Kvyat setting the fastest practise time and team mate Daniel Ricciardo posting the third quickest at the floodlit Marina Bay street circuit.
Remarkably, it was the first time this season Red Bull had topped the time sheets in any qualifying session, a far cry from 2010-13 when they won four championships in a row and totally dominated the sport.
“If today’s any tell-tale sign, I think we’re looking pretty good,” Ricciardo said. “I hoped the car would work better around here and that looks like the case.”
Kvyat’s performance in the second 90-minute session was all the more impressive after he missed most of the first because of engine problems.
The 21-year-old Russian, who finished second in Hungary in July, kept his cool on a steamy night to record a fastest lap time of 1:46.142 on super-soft tyres.
“Hopefully we can carry this into tomorrow, obviously everyone will be working very hard tonight but we’ll try our best to stay in the same position tomorrow,” he said.
Despite their engine woes, Red Bull arrived in Southeast Asia with high expectations after taking engine penalties at the Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago to ensure they’d have fresh ones for Singapore.
“I got a taste of victory last year and that’s the thing, when you taste it, you expect it and you want it more and more,” said Ricciardo, who won three times in 2014 but has a best finish of third this year.
“Obviously, they had the four titles and now it’s been taken away from them for 18 months and I think next year that’s the target to try and get back on track and get up there, not only me but all the guys are hungry.”
(Reporting by Julian Linden, editing by Alan Baldwin)