Aston Martin Red Bull racing team is all set to face a new era with Honda. A new year, new engine manufacturer and new page to fill with new achievements. Really? Well yes, and here's why.
Red Bull always has believed that they would have earned victories in 2018 season with Honda's Formula 1 engine because the Japanese manufacturer would have no difference to the French manufacturer. "We'd be no different to where we are now" had it used Honda engines in 2018, said Christian Horner in F1’s Austrian Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen's unexpected victory, the first one of two in last season that put him fourth overall in the drivers’ standings.
However, in the same season, Daniel Ricciardo has suffered a reliability problem in different occasions (especially a problem with the MGU-K failure) just before he wins his redemption victory in Monaco after his start from pole position. The Honey Badger himself has admitted his car condition of poor reliability saying “pretty painful” after an engine failure in Japanese Grand Prix qualifying last season. Now, Ricciardo has left Red Bull, where he scored seven wins and 29 podiums in five years moving to Renault to team up with German Nico Hulkenberg. The Aussie was comprehensively defeated by team-mate Max Verstappen in the championship.
Although it has been said that Red Bull believes the Honda engine is only about 12bhp down on the Renault following improvements meaning the team is taking a risky action and decision in the hope of winning more battles awaits in 2019, such a gamble to switch from Renault whose engines they have used since 2007 to Honda.
It’s obvious that the switch has come when Red Bull’s younger Italian sister racing team, Toro Rosso has shown signs of improvement in 2018 which is a good sign too for the Japanese manufacturer to supply their engine more than one team in F1 since 2015 with Mclaren.
Now, Honda has been building up their UK facility in Milton Keynes to house a second operation for several years now, giving them the capability to supply both Red Bull and Toro Rosso this year, and Horner is confident they have the foundations in place to hit the ground running this season.
“Communication in any business, in particular in this sport, is a vital element,” said Horner.
“Obviously Honda is based in Japan, but their UK base is just around the corner from us in Milton Keynes. We’ve obviously got a huge amount of discussion going on between the groups.
“So far it’s all been very positive and I think we’ve found a very healthy working environment - that we’ve been nurturing through the relationship with Red Bull technology, Toro Rosso and Honda - that we don’t go into next year completely afresh.”
And Horner believes that their 2018 campaign could have looked ‘quite different’, perhaps even title challenging, had they had extra power in the back of their RB14 contender.
“It’s always easy to say ifs, buts, and maybes,” he added. “If there would have been another 40kw (around 53bhp) in the back of the car then the season could have looked quite different.
“Hats off to everyone at Milton Keynes for arguably producing one of our best ever chassis. If you look at the other users with the same engine, there’s a world of difference.”