There’s a palpable buzz within Red Bull Racing about next season and its impending works partnership with Japanese manufacturer Honda.
Progress at sister team Toro Rosso, which has acted as an important test bed underpinning the project, has been swift with Pierre Gasly proving the potential in Austin. Qualifying just 84 thousandths of a second behind Max Verstappen in Q1, something that excited the Dutchman.
“Okay, they used a few more tyres, but still our car should be quite a bit better, and they were very competitive,” Verstappen said.
That performance continued in Mexico last weekend, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly going from 20th to 10th for the final point; while Verstappen took his second-straight win at the high-speed track.
But Mexico was an expected stronghold – and it’s an example of how the team has operated for the past few years on the back of Renault’s power deficit. Having to focus on the less power-sensitive races it can win at like Monaco, Hungary and Singapore…
Since its debut in 2005, the team has taken 59 wins with 41 taken during its world championship glory years between 2010 to 2013, but has scored just 12 in the hybrid era, with none in 2015.
So Honda is a much needed break from the peaks and troughs of the last five years, one it hopes will return it to consistent frontrunning.
It also needs that performance to properly unleash Verstappen, who is no doubt the driver of his generation, freakishly talented, and a future world champion in the right car.
And that car right now would be a Mercedes or Ferrari, both of which will only become more attractive to the Dutchman, should Honda not deliver.
SOUNDBITE: (English) MAX VERSTAPPEN,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
"As long as they want you, they [Mercedes and Ferrari] will, they will come for you. But at the moment, you know, I'm at Red Bull and I'm very happy there, as well, so there is no, no need to change that."
There’s a lot on the line as Red Bull Racing moves towards 2019, when it’s hoped frustration will become something of the past.