Red Bull’s Christian Horner says the Formula 1 team’s partnership with its 2019 engine manufacturer Honda is already “way stronger” than its relationship with Renault.
Honda’s work with Red Bull sister outfit Toro Rosso has shown signs of promise in 2018, with Pierre Gasly taking the best result of its F1 return to date with fourth in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Its latest specification engine helped Brendon Hartley qualify sixth for Honda’s home race at Suzuka ahead of his team-mate, leading Renault driver Carlos Sainz Jr to admit Honda’s gains were “worrying”.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen said he was optimistic about the Honda partnership, marking a contrast to Red Bull’s relationship with Renault, which has increasingly been acrimonious after winning every title in 2010-13 ahead of the current V6 turbo-hybrid era.
Horner said of the relationship with Honda: “It already is way stronger. It is far more integrated.”
“The last few years, it has been a very difficult relationship [with Renault], a strained relationship.
“It is a very different relationship because rather than as a paying customer, it is a true partnership and technical partnership.
“Through our entire career with Renault we’ve always been a customer.
“Around 2011-12, at the peak of the exhaust blowing, the integration between chassis and engine was very strong.
“That has been diluted during 2014 and ’15 and then stopped totally when they had their own team in ’16.”
Carlos Sainz Jr, Renault Sport F1 Team R.S. 18 and Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Sutton Images
Toro Rosso believes that Honda’s newly upgraded engine is already more powerful than Renault’s current engine.
Asked what that meant for Red Bull’s prospects in 2019, Horner said: “Month by month they are getting stronger and stronger, and the engines that they are bringing to the circuit now are getting closer and closer to the front of the field.
“There is still obviously some way to go, but it is really encouraging to see the progress and commitment that is coming out of Japan, and that hopefully will benefit us going into 2019.
“There is still a long way to go, but it has put a real energy into the whole factory in Milton Keynes and there is a real sense of optimism around the whole team.”
Horner believes if Honda can help bridge the power deficit that Red Bull currently has to Mercedes and Ferrari, the team can make up the remaining difference through its chassis.
“We’ve got a reset on regulations and some teams will get it right and some teams will get it wrong,” said Horner about 2019 chances. “We hope we are in the earlier part of that sentence.
“Our Achilles heel for the last five years has been power differential and, if we can start to really close that gap down to the Ferrari and Mercedes ahead, then we have the strength in depth as a team to take the fight to them.”
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