Should Renault supply Red Bull with the same engine that its F1 team used?

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The underperforming engine supplied by Renault to Red Bull has significantly damaged its reputation in the 2018 season. As Renault itself operates a team in the same sport, many suspected that Renault purposely supplied faulty engines to its competitors to gain advantage. Renault has denied such accusations, but this raises a question: is it ethical to supply underpowered engines to get an edge over  your competitor?

For: Race should be fair

Engine performance is critical in any racing competition, including Formula One. If Red Bull’s accusation is correct, the primary stakeholder will almost certainly be Red Bull’s racing team. Dealing with unreliable and underperforming engines would drastically impair their performance, resulting in suboptimal acceleration and potentially increasing the chance of retiring the car due to engine failure.

Second, the selling of engines is a lucrative revenue stream for Renault. Each engine might cost up to $15 million. As a major engine supplier, such accidents would result in a significant loss of reputation among F1 teams, making future contracting more difficult. This is precisely what occurred to them, since Red Bull switched allegiances to Honda following this occurrence. In terms of the code of conduct, delivering the same engine is consistent with the aspirational code. Along with adhering to applicable laws and regulations, businesses should promote healthy competition among themselves and refrain from engaging in behaviour that undermines the spirit of fair competition for their personal benefit. Renault should only provide verified and honest information to their customers and consumers regarding the products, services, and their qualities, in accordance with their code of ethics. If Renault agrees to become a supplier, it must accept full responsibility and maintain a pro-competitive stance consistent with professional standards. Simultaneously, it is a vehicle for Renault to communicate to the outside world the positive ideals it embraces.

Providing the same engine is utilitarian from an ethical standpoint. According to utilitarianism, an action is justified if it results in the greatest possible happiness for the largest number of people. For the overwhelming majority of stakeholders who pay to watch the event and are devoted to Formula 1. Allowing Formula One teams to maximise their talents and resources results in entertaining races that satisfy the great majority of people. Renault’s decision to supply Red Bull with a less powerful engine stifles competition and reduces the likelihood of competitive races. If Renault supplies Red Bull with the same engine, both teams will compete on an equal basis in terms of speed, Red Bull will be competitive in the top three teams, and the exciting game will appeal to a broader audience.

Furthermore, Kantian ethics bolster this position. Kant’s ethics is separated into two sections: deontological ethics and the ethics of kindness. Among them, the ethics of obligation promotes equality and reciprocity, while Kant’s ethics is founded on the concept of kindness. Providing the identical engine is entirely consistent with the idea of equality and reciprocal gain, and it also demonstrates Renault’s generosity. To summarise, giving the same engine is acceptable ethically and theoretically.

Against: Victory comes first

Renault has a justifiable reason to use any methods necessary to win as long as they do not violate any regulations. The objective of every team participating in a competitive sport is to get the greatest possible outcome. This is no exception for Renault’s team, which competes with Red Bull and McLaren, both of which use Renault engines. This becomes more likely when prior year’s results are considered, as Renault has struggled to crack the top five in the previous two years, while Red Bull has consistently finished in the top three. Finally, despite having a potential performance advantage, Renault does not violate the provisions of the agreement with Red Bull, nor does this activity violate any FISA laws. As a result, they are not obligated to supply the greatest engine to a large competitor. These are the reasons why Renault’s reluctance to offer the greatest engine to its opponents can be morally justified by Kantian theory, since it is consistent with the responsibility ethic of acting in accordance with the game’s rules and the participating team’s purpose.

Compared with Red Bull, Renault’s team has intrinsic disadvantages. They are not caused by the game’s regulations, but by the disparity in size between the corporations and the investment received by the teams. Renault had a budget of $190 million for its team in 2018, while Red Bull received $310 million. This financial disparity is visible in their teams’ performance, as optimising an F1 car can be quite expensive: Procurement of materials and other accessories can cost up to $60 million for a relatively small crew, while maintenance, repair, and driver compensation can cost up to $50 million. This would only increase for larger teams, as improving aerodynamics, reducing weight, and hiring better drivers always takes more money.

Finally, gaining reputation by outperforming its opponents is the best way to please the fans. The investor will be happy too and may provide greater monetary support in future seasons. As Renault also produces cars for the consumer market, it is plausible that the news of a great victory brought by their team can also bring the sales of its sports car models to a new level.  As long as they comply with the rules of the game, any doubt for them gaining their place with unfair means would be irreverent in comparison with the benefit of their result. From the utilitarianism point of view, Renault’s decision does bring the greatest happiness to the most people that are important to them. Ultimately, the best method to get followers is to establish a reputation by surpassing opponents. The investor will be pleased as well, and may provide additional financial help in future seasons. Given that Renault also produces cars for the consumer market, it is conceivable that news of their team’s excellent triumph will boost sales of their sports car models. As long as they play by the rules, any uncertainty about them obtaining their position through unethical means would be trivial in comparison with their result. From a utilitarian standpoint, Renault’s decision does result in the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people who matter to them.

Initial Decision:

We think Renault should supply the same engine to Red Bull.

22 thoughts on “Should Renault supply Red Bull with the same engine that its F1 team used?

  1. I like this topic pretty much. This relate the engineering and the ethics perfectly.
    For producing the engines, i am fully agree on providing the same engine, as the Red Bull pays for the engine, he should gain what he pay for instead of a ‘lower performance engine’. In my opinion the Renault should follow the care ethic and Kant’s theory since they sell the engine, they would have the responsibility to provide the same engine.

  2. Informative article. Kantian theory and utilitarianism are well demonstrated in for and against. I agree with the final point of the article that fair competition is the premise of competitive sports.

  3. Very interesting argument on whether it is necessary to offer help to the rivals. I think that keeping a gap with the rivals in sporting competitions is undoubtedly one of the most important goals for the teams. It is up to Renault’s management to decide how to achieve better performance, whether to use the money received from the sale of engines to strengthen themselves, or to refuse offering good engines to their rivals to limit their development.

  4. Remote surgery is indeed a promising technology, and overcoming its low success rate compared with other operation modes is key at this stage. As I concerned, the cost problem will be improved with the development of materials and communication technology in the future.

    1. Because of network problems, this comment appeared in the wrong place and is corrected here as a new comment as follows:
      I think Renault is using the rules and taking the proper means to win. And from a utilitarian point of view, it is in Renault’s own interest to do so, and from a business point of view, getting a better placing seems to be more important.

  5. This is a really interesting article, I was not previously aware that Renault supplied the engines for both red bull and McLaren. The use of Kant’s theories for both the for and against arguments were well explained, and i appreciated the recognition of both deontological ethics and ethics of kindness. In terms of improvements, i felt that the last paragraph repeated itself a little bit when it spoke about obtaining victory by unfair means.
    Another point that could have been made on the topic would be the use of care ethics, as supplying faulty engines would undoubtedly damage the relationship between Renault and other teams that may wish to work with them, such as red bull.
    Virtue ethics also could have been applied, as regardless of how supplying a bad engine would help them win, they should wish to win by fair means. As one should strive to do and be the best they can, and supplying faulty engines would show a lot about their moral character. The engineers in this scenario should also be striving to make all the engines to the best of their ability, regardless of which team would be using them.

  6. Interesting topic, and you have included the most common ethical theories.
    You could also include Kant’s golden rule, which says: “Do to others what you would want them to do to you”. Renault would want Red Bull to supply them with their best engine if it was the other way around. Therefore, that is what Renault should do.

  7. The theme of this article is very interesting, however, in my opinion, the real game should be based on justice and fairness, the game lost the fairness will no longer have a competitive meaning.

  8. I agree with the points made in this article. I feel that providing inferior engines is too costly for Red Bull. After all, the credit of a big company like Red Bull probably outweighs winning or losing the race.

  9. This is a fascinating topic. Unlike the other topics, this one is set in a simple but thoughtful context. This article tells more about the theory and the application of morality and ethics rather than the background of the story and is a delightful thing. However, this article seems long; maybe a shorter and more concise article would be more appealing to readers.

  10. I agree with the decision of the article, and this is a very mechanical article, which I like very much. Fairness is very important, ZHANGMAZI said: fairness, fairness and still fairness! As an engine provider, Renault is obliged to offer a good product to the market even though the buyer is a rival in another area, which has to do with care ethcal. The original intention of car manufacturers to participate in racing events is to improve reputation, and unfairly selling engines is itself a detriment to word of mouth, which contradicts its own strategy. Both pros and cons use sufficient moral arguments, and the article is very engaging.

  11. A challenging but interesting topic. There should be an optimum solution that could be achieved by both sides as a win-win solution such as Renault comes to an agreement with Red Bull to sell them the more reliable engine with added conditions.

  12. I respect your point, but I can’t entirely agree with it. Renault has done exceptionally well as an engine supplier. Supplying the engine as part of the contract is already acceptable because the same engine will perform differently in different cars and drivers. Because everything costs a lot of money in Formula One, staying competitive is the most important thing. Rather than simply being a good supplier, it would be best to consider what you could do to produce a better result that is beneficial to your fans and sponsors.

  13. This hypothesis still looks very amusing today, many years later, especially when Renault has already made their decision. It seems from the news that can be searched that Renault provided a less than good quality engine, whether this was intentional or a result of limited ability, the original intentions of Renault cannot be verified.

    My personal view is that Renault should have done everything they could to provide Red Bull with the best engine possible at the time, they needed to have correctly predicted at the time that the Renault team would no longer be competitive in the future and made a decisive decision to sacrifice in order to build up their reputation for producing engines. Otherwise, the worst outcome would have been that Renault’s team would no longer be competing in F1 and Renault’s engines would have been unavailable.

  14. I like this topic very much!
    First of all, this topic is really close to engineering.
    Secondly, the F1 formula race sounds very cool!
    I think Renault should give the same engine to Red Bull because this promotes fair competition.Not only the profession codes should be obeyed, but the brave heart cannot be lost.
    In China, there is an old saying that is friendship first, competition second. Therefore, I think the fairness is the most important factor in the competition. Renault should win the competition with virtue.

  15. That is a fantastic idea! Formula 1 has been well known for its talented drivers, such as Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, both of whom have won seven championships, and there are some new star young drivers such as Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc… and so on. This fascinating article depicts a harsh and real-world not only among drivers but also among teams. There are numerous stakeholders, ranging from each crazed race fan to each member of the large or small teams. You really combined your knowledge of ethics with the real-world situation, which makes it meaningful! BTW, something I disagree with in the comments is that the engine can be identified by a couple of numbers, but no two engines are exactly the same, so there is always a better one.

  16. The rivalry and partnership between Renault and Red Bull is surely a very interesting topic, but I always thought Renault shouldn’t have partnered with Red Bull by selling out for a better engine, they should have been more concerned with their own performance in Formula 1, because as far as I know they’re not even on the Formula 1 team list anymore.

  17. The topic is really fascinating and also perfect for mechanical engineers. The article was interesting and gave me some insight into the F1 stories, but could have added more about the ethical and moral point of view. I look forward to better articles from you.

  18. great topic
    but the title seems to be easily misunderstood. Because as far as I know, the supply of F1 engines is backed up by a clear contract, usually with a clear type or performance data
    argument is clear
    and of course, i agree that Red Bull should apply engines have same qualities with themselves.

  19. Feedback
    1. Clarity of problem/dilemma
    This is an interesting topic, which is an original choice and very appropriate. As a consequence of your article, I searched for a few articles on Red Bull and Renault (and got fully distracted!). It’s clear there was acrimony at various stages n the partnership. You’ve done well in avoiding that by asking the appropriate question.

    2. Use of ethical theories in the For Case
    I really liked the use of the code of conduct in the For Case. Codes of Conduct are statements by organisations and can provide useful measures. You could have looked into the Care Ethics argument – after all this is about the relationship between Renault and Red Bull – as well as Virtue Ethics.

    3. Use of Ethical theories in the Against case
    In the case for Against, you could have included virtue ethics. If Renault chooses to deliberately supply an underperforming engine (and that isn’t the topic here, simply should an engine supplier that also has a team do that) then how virtuous is that? What virtue is being employed here?

    4. Advice on Assignment Two
    a. identifying stakeholders
    b. courses of action
    Apart from Red Bull and Renault, FIA should also be considered a stakeholder.
    With courses for action and indeed for your second assignments, keep away from the actual case and examine the hypothetical case, which you have done here. 😊

    5. Personal remarks
    I really like the topic – very appropriate for mechanical engineers and touches on a number of relevant areas.

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