[F1 2018 VIDEO FEATURE] RED BULL RACING: THE ROAD AHEAD

Red Bull Racing heads to Japan with the Formula 1 dreams of the nation on its shoulders, its partnership with Honda on the horizon – one that has to work for both parties, which are desperate to return to the top.

But, even before a wheel has turned in anger, the pressure to deliver has skyrocketed, with Red Bull motorsport consultant Doctor Helmut Marko stating it’s success or nothing.

“The decision is done. If we don’t have a competitive engine, we will leave Formula 1,” Marko said.

Despite the quit threats, the promise of good times is there, with Red Bull crowing loudly about Honda’s unmatched development facility, located in Sakura, near Tokyo, Japan.

… while the squad says it won’t repeat McLaren’s mistakes, in limiting the space available to the Japanese manufacturer in packaging its power unit – the request simply to build the fastest engine possible.

Red Bull has had the luxury of working with Honda a year ahead of its 2019 track debut, though, via sister team Toro Rosso – its update in Canada, reckoned to be worth four and a half tenths of a second per lap, making a strong case to switch away from Renault.

SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
“It’s been great to see that progress, and we have come to the conclusion that Honda are making good strides, good progress on both performance and reliability and therefore have made the difficult decision to change power units after 12 seasons.”

But, it still wasn’t enough to convince Daniel Ricciardo to re-sign with the team – the 29-year-old heading to Renault for a fresh challenge.

… while for Dutch sensation Max Verstappen, who stormed from 19th to finish fifth in Russia, it’s hoped next year’s Honda-powered RB15 will put the team right in the mix with rivals Ferrari and Mercedes.

SOUNDBITE (English) MAX VERSTAPPEN,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“Well, we are working on it, to be, to be in the fight. So hopefully next year, we can be a lot closer, we have a new engine partner as well next year so, hopefully that will give us that, that extra push on you know, most of the tracks where we, where we are suffering and where we can then compete against them.”

However, that jump in performance won’t likely be immediate, despite Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner stating the team would’ve won the same races it did this year if it were powered by Honda – the Japanese manufacturer said to be within one per cent of Renault’s output.

SOUNDBITE (English) CHRISTIAN HORNER,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, RED BULL RACING:
“Our determination as a team is to keep closing the gap to our immediate competitors. We have been trying to do that over the last couple of years. And of course the power unit is a vital element within a Formula 1 car.”

And while there is some way to go to match the top teams, Red Bull and Toro Rosso will enjoy dual works team status – something Renault cannot provide, given its own works outfit.

The team will also need to bring Pierre Gasly up to speed, though the 22-year-old knows Red Bull and Honda well, and is friends with Verstappen.

SOUNDBITE (English) MAX VERSTAPPEN,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“Both on and off track, I think on track he will be very fast, so we will push each other you know, to be faster and off track, he's a very nice character as well, so it's nice if you have a teammate where you can also have a bit of fun with.”

Red Bull Honda will be a fascinating collaboration to watch in 2019, for a glimpse at whether the global brand can do what McLaren could not… in bringing Honda back to the top of F1.

Something that could yet prove to be the brand’s biggest masterstroke.