I have no idea if Red Bull Racing will stick with Renault power units or switch to the same Honda engines as their sister team, Toro Rosso, but it is clear that Honda have made significant progress since the challenging days as the sole supplier to McLaren.
Honda’s upgraded engine for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix saw Brendon Hartley going second fastest in the speed trap during FP3 and he said:
“From what I understand, everyone was really happy with the first day of the engine without any issues,” said the New Zealander. “[There were] no reliability issues. Driveability was great.
“There is still a bit of tuning and [we’re] still trying to maximise everything out of it, it was very positive from all counts.
“Everyone is happy with how it went, but I would be lying if I told you I felt something drastically different from inside the car because there is so much more to it. But it is a very positive step.”
A positive step is good and Red Bull are watching this iteration very closely to see what gains have been made. For me, it seems a logical step to determine Honda’s ability o develop on weaknesses and offer improved engines through a season. That’s critical for a major team like Red Bull and it has been something that Renault have been able to provide.
There are two sides of this coin with the known performance of the Renault and that is arguably better than the current Honda but the other argument is that Red Bull would be the only team running Honda and having a sole-supplier relationship is a good thing. However, that didn’t work for McLaren who dumped Honda at the end of last season.
For Renault’s part, they say a move to Honda may be risky. Cyril Abiteboul said:
“I understand what they are looking to get,” Abiteboul told Sky.
“They are looking to the technical and commercial side, because it is clearly different remaining a customer and partner of Renault versus becoming a works team with Honda. It is very different and I appreciate that.
“But frankly, as far as I am concerned, they have a chance with us to become world champion again. I cannot say for Honda.
“With what they have now, what is coming in the pipeline, and their car which is clearly a great car, maybe the greatest out there, they have the chance to be world champion again within the next two years.”
They certainly run that risk but Renault has their own works team to get on the top step and Honda doesn’t. Red Bull may feel that a year or maybe two of one-on-one development could lead to a very strong 2021 engine supply when the regulations change. In short, they could find the harmony and complete package that McLaren couldn’t seem to achieve with Honda. Much of that is down to how the two organizations work together and so far, the junior team, Toro Rosso, says that Honda have been good to work with.
Time will tell but I said last year that Toro Rosso would be used to develop the Honda engine and remove the bugs in order to set them up for Red Bull in 2019 and if it were me, I think I would roll the bones on this one and see if Red Bull couldn’t get a bespoke engine from a sole-supplier.
Hat Tip: Autosport