It would have seemed unthinkable just a couple of years ago when it was winning more races than it lost and scoring one world championship after another, but these days Red Bull can't get a competitive engine. And if it doesn't get one soon, it could be forced out of Formula One altogether.

This development emerges after two years of the once indomitable but now deteriorating relationship between Red Bull and its longtime engine partner Renault. When F1 switched from the previous V8 engines to the new hybrid turbo V6 power units ahead of last season, Renault dropped the ball, and Mercedes picked it up. Ferrari has since recovered much of the lost ground to push the Mercedes factory team for wins, but Red Bull and Renault have not.

The stress of falling off their perch has left both parties pointing fingers at each other to the point that the team's longtime technical director Adrian Newey doesn't think the marriage is salvageable, or worth salvaging. "Unfortunately, our relationship with Renault is pretty terminal – there's been too much of a marriage breakdown, so we have no engine," said Newey.

That's left Red Bull looking elsewhere for a new engine deal, but so far it's been unable to find one. The prospect of replacing sponsor Infiniti and supplier Red Bull with a similar partnership with Aston Martin and Mercedes has apparently come to naught. And the proposed buyout and engine deal from the Volkswagen Group evidently collapsed in the wake of that brand's diesel emissions scandal. That leaves Red Bull to turn to one of the existing engine suppliers in the series, and apparently neither Ferrari nor Mercedes are willing to sell their engines to one of their chief rivals.

As McLaren has demonstrated this season, the Honda engines aren't up to speed, either. Which leaves Red Bull with nowhere else to turn. And if it doesn't find something in time for next season (or the following one at the latest), Newey says it may have to pack it in and close up shop. "Red Bull should not be put in a position where they're only there to make up the numbers."

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