Image source: Artes Max
Red Bull will use Honda engines from the start of next season after agreeing a new two-year deal with the Japanese manufacturer. The team had faced a straight choice between continuing with current partner Renault and switching to Honda.
The move was announced on Tuesday morning and spells the end of a 12-year partnership between RBR and Renault that has so far yielded 57 Grand Prix wins and four world championship doubles between 2010 and 2013.
After analysing the latest upgrades from both manufacturers at the Canadian Grand Prix, it sided with Honda, which has supplied its sister team Toro Rosso with engines since the start of the year.
It is the first time since its return to F1 in 2015 that Honda has supplied two teams on the grid after spending three disastrous years partnered with McLaren. The last time two Honda powered cars were on the grid was back in 07/08 with the Super Aguri racing team.
"We have been impressed by Honda's commitment to F1, by the rapid steps they have made in recent times with our sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso, and by the scope of their ambition, which matches our own. We look forward to working with Honda in the coming years and to racing together in pursuit of F1's biggest prizes."
The team will continue to be known as Aston Martin Red Bull Racing due to its title sponsorship deal with the British sports car maker. The length of the Honda contract means it will also have a free choice of suppliers when the engine regulations change in 2021 to reduce costs and bringing more manufacturers into the sport.
For those interested in their road cars and motorsport, Honda are big enough to buy Red Bull, which could be huge for the British firm should the relationship flourish. We may also see integral technical partnerships in road cars, potentially even seeing the newer Aston Martin running some kind of Honda hybrid power unit.
Red Bull tried to end its deal with Renault two years ago and in 2015 was turned down when it approached Mercedes about its class-leading power units. The team often references its lack of power, particularly in qualifying, as the reason for the gap in performance to Mercedes and Ferrari. However Renault have soured the end of the relationship by publicly saying if Red Bull switch to Honda they can say goodbye to any hopes of winning in the next two years.
Honda will have more time to prepare for its Red Bull union than it did with its junior team Toro Rosso, having only completed that deal for 2018 as part of a complicated Merry-Go-Round in September 2017.
This may reduce the performance deficit expected by most as the team adapts to new power units and a different way of working. Japan has a terrific work ethic and different cultural protocol that many at McLaren initially blamed for the poor start to their union with Honda.
Honda’s initial target as a partner with Red Bull is not to drop below the current performance level and build upon it later in 2019. This is an admirable target and one we'll be keeping a close eye on at RealSport.
Do you see a long-term future for the Red Bull/Honda partnership? Lets us know in the comments below.