Red Bull recently announced it would ditch Renault as its engine supplier for 2019/20 and instead take on Honda alongside Toro Rosso. But is this a good idea?
Firstly the team said in a statement that they would still race under the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing name rather than integrating Honda.
So why did Red Bull choose Honda? Well, it all started when Toro Rosso took over the supply from Mclaren, clearly by choice of Red Bull so they could asses Honda’s progress to potentially take on the Japanese manufacturer themselves.
And compared to their 3-year tenure with Mclaren, Honda has done well this year even powering Pierre Gasly to 4th place in Bahrain which is a power dependent track. They have also been in or close to the points on a number of occasions.
But it hasn’t all been roses as of the Candian Grand Prix Gasly and Hartley are the only drivers (apart from Daniel Ricciardo) to have used all of their allocated power unit elements, putting them on the edge of grid penalties.
Clearly, Red Bull believe this is better than the current Renault engine they have given the deal is only 2 years which opens up the possibilities when the new regulations come in to effect in 2021. I doubt they would sign such a small term deal to be in the same position until the new rules come along. If they felt Honda would deliver the same performance they would likely stick with Renault and try to get the most out of the current package.
The only reason that scenario would happen is if they intend to stick with Honda for 2021, but I don’t see that happening. Personally, I think Aston Martin will become a manufacturer and supply Red Bull. So the fact they have signed a 2-year deal indicates to me that they think they can at least fight for titles with Honda (and not just because that was said in the press release).
Honda will certainly benefit from the deal as Honda president Takahiro Hachigo said:
“Having two teams means we can access twice as much data as previously.”
This is what Honda has wanted since they rejoined F1 in 2015. Having two teams means they can collect twice the data which will allow them more opportunities to improve on the performance and reliability. This is thought to have been one of the downfalls of the Mclaren-Honda project in that being a works team they had less data to work from that the other manufacturers.
But what about the drivers?
Versatappenisn’t really a factor in this as he’s locked in till the end of 2020 meaning any move he makes will be for the new regulations in 2021.
But Ricciardo is where it gets interesting. He’s been on a knife edge with Red Bull for a number of years and since his contract expires this year he is hot property for top teams with potential seats at both Mercedes and Ferrari for next season.
That knife edge has been softened recently though, since he has scored 2 wins this year, one of which had been 2 years in the making.
Personally, I don’t think Ricciardo will be pleased with the deal despite Honda’s recent form. Whether it will cause him to leave is another question altogether and one that could spice up the grid, causing a knock on effect that causes big changes elsewhere.
One thing is certain, Ricciardo will need some serious convincing to be happy with a Honda engine.
In the end though one of the biggest reasons Red Bull has made the decision to move is that Renault had them under pressure to make a decision and they clearly aren’t happy with the result.
In an interview with Motorsport.com Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul has straight up said he hopes Red Bull will regret the decision when they see the gains Renault are set to make. Not exactly a kind hatred farewell.
He even went as far as to suggest Red Bull may not even get the ‘spec C’ engine that will roll out later this year.
“At this point in time there is no reason to think that Red Bull will not be receiving it (the ‘spec C’ engine),” he said. “although we are yet to confirm details of engine allocation plan.”
It would seem as though both parties are repeating their infamous 2015 breakdown.
So is it a good idea? Well, that all depends on what Honda can produce. If they have big improvements then it’s a very good idea as it gets Red Bull out of the Renault deal and in the market for 2021, while also making more money to spend on 2021 onwards.
But while Red Bull seems confident Honda will deliver I’m not so sure, certainly not straight off the bat.
What do you think of the Red Bull-Honda deal?
Let me know in the comments and please share.