[F1 2018 VIDEO FEATURE] RED BULL RACING: HONDA BOUND

Red Bull Racing has taken a very bold step towards a competitive future, with its decision to run Honda power in 2019 and 2020.

The news - which broke ahead of the French Grand Prix weekend – ended months of speculation on whether the former 4-time F1 world constructors’ champion would stick with current power unit partner Renault… 

Or move to its Japanese rival Honda, which it has now done, despite the manufacturer yet to produce a winning power unit in the turbo-hybrid era.

Honda will become Red Bull Racing’s fourth power unit partner, following on from one-year stints with Cosworth and then Ferrari – before 12 years with Renault, with whom it took all but one of its 153 podiums.

And while Renault Sport termed the split a “natural evolution” for the pair in their respective aspirations, Red Bull said the decision was a technical one, in closing the gap to the top teams.

SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
“We have decided that the time is right to make that next step in our journey and move to a new power unit supplier in Honda. We have had the privilege of seeing how they have progressed this year and reached the conclusion that, purely for technically driven reasons, this is the right move for the future of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.”

Red Bull and Renault have long had a strained relationship – with the team unafraid to criticise the proud French marque in the media, even during its title-winning years between 2010 and 2013.

An uncompetitive power unit at the start of F1’s turbo-hybrid era led to a huge comedown and near-divorce at the end of 2015. 

But, after Mercedes and Ferrari refused to supply, Red Bull was thrown a lifeline by the sport – with Renault forced to provide engines as part of its deal with F1 to return as a constructor’ in 2016, while Red Bull rebadged the engine TAG-Heuer.

However, a lack of horsepower has continued to hold the team back. And in the last three years, it has taken just two pole positions and seven wins – not enough to fight Ferrari and Mercedes for the title.

Honda’s split with McLaren at the end of 2017, though, paved the way for a first-time works partnership for Toro Rosso, which Red Bull monitored closely for its own potential switch. Montreal this year the watershed moment, with both Honda and Renault bringing upgrades.

SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
“Based on the information we had from Montreal, our decision driven by engineering was pretty clear cut in the end.”

That decision is likely to be based on performance, with Honda’s power unit now said to be on par with Renault – and cash, the manufacturer not only providing free engines and millions in support, but committed to spending whatever it takes to succeed.

How that will affect Red Bull Racing’s short term competitiveness, along with its ability to hold onto Daniel Ricciardo, remains to be seen.

Its biggest challenge could be matching Toro Rosso in giving Honda space to develop at the rear-end of the car, chief technical officer Adrian Newey famous for his almost shrink-wrapped aerodynamic solutions.

…mirroring issues at McLaren, where a size-zero chassis forced Honda’s turbo into the engine’s vee-angle, compromising development.

Regardless, after 4-straight F1 world championship doubles with Renault and 57 race wins, Red Bull Racing is moving on to its next era with Honda – and clearly, the team feels it’s now on a stronger path.

SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
“We are confident that Honda have the right infrastructure, the right resources, the right technical capacity and determination to help us in our quest to reduce the gap to the teams ahead of us in Ferrari and Mercedes.”