Nobody in the Paddock will be surprised when the announcement that Red Bull Racing will take up Honda engines for 2019, thus becoming a de facto works outfit again.
Of course this is pure speculation, but the first steps were taken to such an occurrence when Honda partnered up with Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso this year. With a 5th place in Bahrain, it is clear that Honda have moved a step on since their days with McLaren.
Increased partnership between Honda and Red Bull is further evidenced by a PR stunt being held at the Red Bull ring in Austrian, planned for June 5th. Moto GP works Honda team mates Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez have been given a ‘test’, driving a Red Bull F1 car. The two were given a prelude to the main event back in December driving a Japanese Formula 3 car at the Honda Thanks Day at Motegi.
Red Bull sponsored Motocross KTM rider Tony Cairoli will also take part in the test, and all three riders will be visiting Red Bull Racings headquarters in Milton Keynes for seat fittings later this week.
TJ13 has learned that further combined Honda / Red Bull PR events have been planned for later in the year, marking the beginnings of a closer relationship between the two brands, potentially signalling an announcement for engine supply for 2019. PR stunts and collaborations are a common marketing tactic to ‘condition’ fans and the public to potentially controversial future announcements.
The jury is still out on Honda’s Power Unit but in reality Honda are not far off Renault in 2018, and Red Bull are very likely to be looking at their long term strategy with the 2021 engine regs set to change dramatically.
Since the fallout between Renault and Red Bull after 2014 and the era of hybrid power, the Milton Keynes squad have fallen out of favour with their engine supplier who have since returned to having their own works team. Where Red Bull enjoyed number 1 status with the French manufacturer, they have been relegated to merely a customer team with very little say in direction for engine design. Perfect harmony between chassis and power unit is the most critical aspect of how to win a championship in this modern F1 formula era.