Renault CEO Cyril Abiteboul does not believe that Honda will continue to make as much progress as they did in the 2018 season.
Abiteboul’s official hypothesis, if you could call it that, is that Honda’s strategy last year was to “use as many engines as they want” noting that Toro Rosso used eight internal combustion engines, turbochargers and MGU-H’s each. The regulations allow only three of each components before receiving grid penalties.
“At Toro Rosso, nobody looks up when something like that happens, but with Red Bull, I expect a bit more
It is well known that Honda and Red Bull Racing were very intentionally using Toro Rosso as a test bed for the coming 2019 season with the senior race team. Honda didn’t shy away from bringing to the team a new development as soon as it was ready, with little consideration to the penalties incurred.
Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul believes that this strategy flattered the rival engine manufacturers progress.
“But if they want to stick to the rules, they have two or three opportunities to improve the power unit during the season,” says the Frenchman. “Just like us.”
Renault delivered two upgrades of its own drive unit last season, but the so-called C-Spec was used exclusively by Red Bull, with the main factory Renault team declining to use it due to reliability concerns.
“We also have the constructors’ championship, and we know those grid penalties have a huge impact on our ability to score points, and we did not want to risk that,” Abiteboul clarified.
“Honda is a threat in some ways, but so is everyone else,” he says. “I expect the threat to abate over time, and believe in the progress we have made this winter,” concludes the Renault boss.
Many would argue that Abiteboul’s theory on Red Bull’s approach and likely 2019 issues are unfounded, with the obvious advantage of having a second ‘guinea pig’ team in Toro Rosso to test any upgrades first.
The comparison is unbalanced, both Renault and the previous Honda works team McLaren, have to achieve the best results with the lowest number of errors in engine development, with Red Bull openly saying they will sacrifice Toro Rosso for engine development.
But perhaps Abiteboul’s claims do carry some weight.
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Firstly, the Toro Rosso packaging will always be far more conservative in it’s cooling requirements – Red Bull’s Adrian Newey’s famously tight aerodynamic bias designs test engines to the max, often to the detriment of reliability.
Secondly, just because there’s an upgrade that appears to work on the Toro Rosso chassis, this does not automatically mean that it’ll correlate to the senior Red Bull car, and Red Bull will anticipate that.
Therefore, any upgraded spec power unit destined over to the main team will be an extremely considered one. It is likely that the senior team will continue to languish in the midfield.
More and more pressure from the team bosses to accelerate the upgrade will very likely push development beyond what is considered comfortable by the Japanese manufacturer. We could see McLaren take 2 for Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly.
Interesting times ahead.
Meanwhile, in the press Red Bull’s Helmut Marko claims that the Red Bull chassis will be on time.
Germany’s Motorsport-Magazin.com reports that the new Red Bull will actually be crash tested on today with a rollout then planned for the days before official Barcelona testing.
Marko says the rollout will happen at Silverstone.
“It’s always tight, but we’ve taught Newey that the first official test day is not a rollout,” quipped Marko.