We are five races in and other than counting points, we should count Honda's blessings.
The decision to press pause and start anew with Toro Rosso paid off, following a disastrous 3-year campaign with McLaren. One of Honda’s crucial moves was dividing former F1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa’s role into two different figures. Toyoharu Tanabe represents the team trackside, whereas Yasuaki Asaki deals with engine development at the factory, with the two reporting reciprocally and working closely.
The team feels Tanabe’s expertise improved the level of communication between the two departments, increasing the effectiveness of their problem-solving measures and making the outfit more reactive. Not only is Honda provided with a valid technical back-up at Toro Rosso, but also the atmosphere in Faenza and Milton Keynes is fostering Honda’s progression. Just to let the numbers talks for a second: athis point last year Honda had used 40 engine components collectively, while it managed to halve them this year.
The plot of our idyll appears to be opening up nicely, but here comes Red Bull, whose deal with Renault expires at the end of 2018. The Anglo-Austrian team believes Enstone is holding the team back, as they are unable to match their chassis’ competitiveness. Hence, they are eager to embark on a new partnership and the ideal candidate happens to be Honda.
The two have already held talks together, which have been regarded as ‘positive’ but they are far from reaching an agreement. May 15th coincided with the deadline for manufacturers to present to the FIA the adequate documents containing the lists of the teams they are going to supply. However, both Red Bull and Honda stated they do not aim to rush their negotiations to a premature conclusion. Honda is being cautious in its own right, as it is highly reluctant to overpromise.
Honda seems to have found its stability with Toro Rosso, whose working range and rhythm are evidently sustainable. After three rough years, they finally managed to rebuild their foundation through a seamless and meticulous learning process. Switching to yet another rhythm, having to match schedules with a top team would cause their foundation to crumble again or to miss a beat. If the team alters its learning cycle, it could end up irreparably damaged on the short term as well as on the long term.
Therefore, 2019 is too early for Honda to supply Red Bull but also for Red Bull to have their engines supplied by Honda, which is still fairly new. The Anglo-Austrian team opens up about its frustration behind Ferrari and Mercedes, but is this dissatisfaction worth relying on a more precarious surface?