The junior Red Bull drivers at Toro rosso are probably not to be envied, best example being Brendon Hartley who has now moved backwards through grid penalties on three occasions in a row due to power unit component changes.
The man from New Zealand has already changed a sixth internal combustion unit after just 10 races. The current regulations allow for only three over the course of a whole year.
We saw further woe for Hartley at Silverstone, when the driver’s suspension exploded at third practice.
The lower wishbone broke without wine resulting in huge smash coming into Luffield, then during race day on Sunday the Toro rosso mechanics made in error washed wiring his power unit resulting in the car pulling over after just one lap.
Brendon’s Hartley’s team mate Pierre gasly has also had his fair share of troubles; after the aforementioned suspension issues at Silverstone stopped the Frenchman completing his third practice session under instruction by a cautious team.
During the race a penalty then dropped Gasly, costing him the last championship point after a hard fight, including one with Fernando Alonso, resulting in the team not scoring a point for the fourth time in a row.
The frenchman’s remaining allocation of power unit components isn’t looking particularly healthy either.
He is on his fourth internal combustion engine and the team are certainly expecting further engine penalties, barely being midway through the season.
Compounding the situation are Red Bull who have offered Honda an opportunity to experiment at will, and give as many upgrades as is available to Toro Rosso in an effort to ensure that the power unit available for the main team in 2019 is this reliable and is powerful as possible.
Obviously this move is at the cost of Toro Rosso and their ability to score regular points for the team, and more importantly their young junior drivers trying to impress.
“Of course we leave the decision to Honda,” says Red Bull’s Helmut Marko.
“But if they find a tenth with the development, of course, they can try the development stage right in the race.
Even if that means we’re taking penalties for it. “
We will likely see that scenario next year. Red Bull have a unique position within the F1 Paddock being owners of two teams; a golden opportunity for Honda to develop their engine using the lesser team, almost like a testing team.
The doctrine enabling the senior racing team to make an informed decision as to whether to accept a penalty and follow Toro Rosso on any particular upgrade given by Honda.
Some Might argue that although not particularly fair on both Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly (or whoever is in the team next year), but this tactic by Red Bull is understandable if in 2019 the team want to stand a chance of winning races.
The question is however is it ok to do this at the expense of young up-and-coming drivers in a very depleted Red Bull junior programme?