Toro Rosso-Honda, Baku City Circuit, 2018

Red Bull and Honda to meet at Spanish GP as deadline looms over engine talks

2019 F1 season

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Red Bull and Honda are keen to agree on an engine supply deal for the 2019 F1 season and will hold further talks at the next race, sources have confirmed to RaceFans.

The first official discussions between the two took place during last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where Honda’s Masashi Yamamoto met with Red Bull’s Helmut Marko. But time is running out to agree a deal and opportunities for talks are limited by a series of national holidays in Japan which fall between now and the next race.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has indicated they could take until the summer break to decide on its engine plans for next year. However the team’s current engine supplier Renault is pressing for an earlier decision.

Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul reiterated in Baku he wants a decision from Red Bull by the middle of May. Manufacturers are required by the regulations to confirm by this point which teams they will supply next season.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Yamamoto confirmed it must decide its plans by May 15th, the Tuesday after the Spanish Grand Prix. “It’s something we are starting to discuss now and it has to be smooth between Honda and Red Bull,” he said. “”I want to use the time we have left to discuss with the Honda board members before I take the feedback back Red Bull to take the next steps.”

An alliance with Honda would give Red Bull the benefit of being a works engine team. However it is understood that Red Bull would not receive the same financial contribution from Honda that McLaren did.

Red Bull has been able to observe Honda’s progress with its power units this year as its junior team Toro Rosso uses the Japanese engines. Fourth place for Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly in Bahrain has been the highlight of their partnership so far and is Honda’s best result since returning to F1 in 2015.

RaceFans understands from sources in Japan the manufacturer is anxious to make a success of its F1 programme, particularly in the light of Fernando Alonso’s repeated criticism of their power unit since he branded it a “GP2 engine” at Suzuka three years ago. The positive attitude towards Honda shown by Gasly and Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost in particular has won them many fans in Japan.

Deal could hand F1 debut to Fukuzumi

Nirei Fukuzumi, F2, 2018
Fukuzumi is racing for Arden in Formula Two, and…
Nirei Fukuzumi, Super Formula, Suzuka, 2018
…in Red Bull colours with Honda power in Super Formula

Nirei Fukuzumi, a member of the Honda Formula Dream Project young driver programme, is likely to join Toro Rosso if Red Bull’s deal to use Honda engines goes ahead.

The 21-year-old was announced as a Red Bull Athlete in January alongside the six members of its Junior Team. He finished third in GP3 last year and is racing in Formula Two and Super Formula this season.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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61 comments on “Red Bull and Honda to meet at Spanish GP as deadline looms over engine talks”

  1. I think Red Bull will gamble on Honda. Yes, the Renault power units have gotten much closer to Ferrari and Mercedes in terms of performance, but RBR wants that works team status again, and Renault probably doesn’t care what Red Bull does seeing as they have McLaren as a customer now.

    On top of all that, I’m sure everyone in both teams wants to see the end of all the petty drama we’ve seen since the start of the V6 era. Personally, I’m surprised this dragged out beyond 2015, let alone 2018.

  2. I still think it is too early for Red Bull to go with Honda. The team has title winning aspirations and two ambitious and in-demand drivers – Honda are still not in a position to provide them with a consistently race winning power unit.

    While Honda does look like it is moving in the right direction, they aren’t there yet. As painful as it must be for Horner, it makes sense to stick with the known quantity that is Renault for another season while Honda continue to sort themselves out in the low pressure environment of Toro Rosso.

    1. @geemac

      Agree. They’re trying their level best to retain their driver line up, which will only get harder if they switch to an unknown quantity such as Honda. Dan will most definitely leave if he sees Red Bull moving towards Honda. Heck, I believe Renault would be a more attractive option than Red Bull if the Honda switch happens. I also don’t see Max sticking around battling in lower midfield with Honda power.

      To be completely honest, Honda has been rubbish since 2015 and will remain rubbish till 2021 at the minimum. I don’t see the so called benefit in being a Honda works team. The regulations are being set to give customer teams the exact same hardware and software as the works teams anyways, so having a works relationship is nowhere as beneficial as it was in 2014-2016. Now the best possible power unit is the best option regardless of works or customer status. Currently, Renault are still better than Honda, so I would think it’s a no-brainer for Red Bull to stick with Renault till 2021.

  3. I think RB should switch to Honda asap. They have no change to become WCC or WDC with Renault. Ferrari and Mercedes are just too strong so why not gamble on Honda? So far Honda seems to be able to finish races.

    1. dutchtreat (@dutchtreat) You sound very much like Ron Dennis did and look where that got him.

      1. Rich as croesus and with all the time in the world. No bad is it ;)

    2. dutchtreat
      Where have we heard that line or argument before?

    3. @dutchtreat

      Are you saying they have a better chance of becoming WDCs/WCCs after switching to Honda?

      What’s guaranteed is that Honda will give Red Bull it’s worst season in over a decade.

  4. Interesting. I’d be willing to bet that ultimately they’re going to switch to Honda power for next season to become a ‘de-facto’ works team of a PU supplier again rather than continue as 100% customer-team of Renault. BTW, when’s the ‘stats and facts review’ article of the last race going to be posted? I’ve been waiting for it all day, LOL.

  5. No point for redbull to go to Honda, Mercedes were first developing this engine formula, followed by ferrari and Renault. Honda are 3 years behind Mercedes. Redbull best stick with Renault till the new regulations in 2021, otherwise they will lose so many potential results by going to Honda.

    1. This certainly makes sense if there is a PU development freeze leading up to 2021.

      1. It makes more sense if you look at Honda’s track record in this era

  6. Seeing both the Renault cars battling both the Red Bulls in the early stages of the Azerbaijan GP, I feel that it is in Red Bull’s interests to invest early in Honda, even if it results in short-term losses. With the Renault team’s ascendancy, it feels like Red Bull will increasingly get the short end of the stick (as it appeared to be the case for Toro Rosso towards the end of 2017).

    If anything, Red Bull can use 2019/2020 as teething years to be integrated with Honda in a non-technical sense (cultural, communications, trust, etc.) with a view towards a big step forward for 2021.

    If they continue with Renault, they will continue to make incremental gains towards Mercedes and Ferrari, but always run the risk of having the carpet pulled out from beneath them by Renault. By breaking ranks with Renault, it would also release Sainz, which makes him the best-placed candidate for promotion into Ricciardo’s shoes (presuming he departs, and I see he will if Red Bull tie up with Honda).

    1. Renaults were fighting Red Bulls because they had faster tyres, when their ultra softs passed their prime the Bulls were catching them easily.

    2. I think also red bulls had battery issues which they sorted out later, they were lapping over 2 sec slower than ferraris, that’s not the usual red bull, that’s renault pace.

      1. Good point @esploratore and that is probably the reason why – I remember both RBRs calling the pitwall to complain about energy charging/storage issues. At that time I was humourously wondering if the Renault cars were triggering it from behind them.

        That said, my point still stands, Renault are moving up the ranks quite quickly, and quite soon it is likely that the engines with the best tolerances will be prioritized for the works team, and no longer for Red Bull.

  7. I’ve said it on other posts, Honda have zero chance of improving enough to compete with the works Mercedes and Ferrari teams, too far behind in the development to catch up. The best red bull could get with Honda is 3rd place, which they already are.

    1. Steven Robertson (@emu55) For obvious reasons, that comment of yours make no logical sense at all. For 2021 the engine configuration will be slightly different in terms of energy recovery and there is Honda’s window of opportunity. That is of course assuming that they don’t sort out their MGU-H problems before that which is not impossible.

      1. Doesn’t help them for the 2019 and 2020 seasons though, having two difficult seasons on the offchance Honda solve the issues by 2021 is a big gamble. If I was ricciardo I’d be delaying signing a contract until next seasons engine deal is agreed.

  8. Having one seat to sell to pay driver would be ideal for Toro Rosso financially. The thing is which one they had to let go? Gasly the fierce one or Hartley the development driver? Toro Rosso need both. Unless Ricciardo is certain not going to stay in Red Bull, everyone gonna hates the Japanese driver.

    1. @ruliemaulana – If Ricciardo leaves, wouldn’t it be more likely that Sainz is brought back into the Red Bull fold and promoted to the parent team, rather than promoting one of the promising but as-yet unproven youngsters in Toro Rosso? It is more likely that Honda’s driver will replace one of the existing TR drivers.

      1. @phylyp I think Sainz could now see that Red Bull has proved to be a better team than a Renault work team. But if he had the option, did he really want to be in a Honda work team?

        1. @ruliemaulana – ooh, that’s an interesting conundrum for Sainz – having the option of being in one of two works teams! Not quite the choices Ricciardo has, but two choices nonetheless!

          That said, Sainz has been loaned to Renault by Red Bull (hence the Red Bull design on his helmet), so I don’t think he’d have much say if Red Bull choose to bring him back.

          1. @phylyp If Honda package tied to FukuzumiRedBull could lease him to Renault for a good price? ;)

          2. @ruliemaulana – ha ha, now that’s a fun thought :-)

    2. I heard rumours on Dutch television that Hartley is already on his way out at Toro Rosso and will be replaced by Pascal Wehrlein.
      He is just not fast enough. I heard the reason for this is that his reflexes are not fast enough anymore for Formula 1 because of years of heavier Sportscar racing. More or less the same as with Sebastien Bourdais after his first stint in ChampCars. His reflexes in F1 were also not fast enough according to team boss Franz Tost.

      1. I can see a couple of reasons why he may be dropped, but reflexes would not be one of them. He’s done nothing to suggest he has caused an issue through slow reflexes, he’s just not quick enough. How much of that is down to the chassis or the engine, who knows? But reflexes would be a pretty crap reason to dump someone, especially when in WEC there are more cars on the track, especially in the 24h events, where reflexes need to be at their prime.

      2. @silfen the first I heard about that. It’s hard to believe, but even if the news of Hartley’s reflexes are true, I found hiring Wehrlein to replace him is weirder news. Pascal Wehrlein is on par with fat Ericsson.

      3. @silfen Did they make that statement on april first?

        Wehrlein is from DTM. Even slower than WEC.

    3. Did you see the idiotic driving by Hartley in qually? Sorry but he doesn’t deserve to be in F1 AT ALL.

      Oh I have a puncture so im just going to meander around in the middle of the road after a blind high speed turn and then get spooked when my teammate comes around aforementioned blind crest at full pelt. �👍�

  9. Renault don’t appear very keen to continue and other than Honda, the other engine makers have shown monumental disinterest in supplying RBR. As short lists go, the RBR engine choice list is one of the best.

  10. I just want fukazumi in F1. Love that name.

      1st May 2018, 5:00


  11. if they get crap engine then i am sure they will lose the drivers very quickly!

  12. I still think Red Bull once hugely underestimated the importance and complexity of power units in the new F1 era and are still paying the price for that. I believe that they needed to build their own engine – that would have been a very expensive project, of course. It was cheaper and easier to blame Renault for making poor engines, Mercedes and Ferrari for not selling them their most valuable assets, F1 for refusing to just make all the engines equal etc. Perhaps ‘H’ is the last remaining letter in the English alphabet, for which there is (yet) nothing to blame for Red Bull’s relatively poor performance since 2014.

    1. RBR has been doing alright with the sub-par engine that they have, so I wouldn’t consider their performance as being poor. Certainly compared to their previous success, but all things considered they have managed to reduce the distance year by year to the front runners

      And since they have gathered such vast experience with a poor engine, it is logical for me the move to Honda, at least they get to be a works team. They will always have the 2021 regs as an escape, and lets be honest, no way they will win the wcc until then with Renault either.

      If they eventually win with Honda, they will also be able to knock on Mclaren’s door and show them the winners trophy

      1. The one thing you have to consider in that scenario, more than anything in my view, is brand damage. It may seem like a win win scenario by switching to Honda, as they will not win with Renault till 2021, so why not. But, if they switch to Honda and have 2 years stuck in the midfield or towards the back half of the grid, the brand damage is far far worse than being third best with the occasional win.

        Red Bull is a marketing company first and foremost, their product is themselves. I’m not saying they won’t jump ship to Honda, but I can see them weighing up their choices based on that argument more than anything. The brand is everything for Redbull.

        I think they will be monitoring the situation very close with Torro Rosso to ascertain if the engine really is up to par. Basically, Torro Rosso are their guinea pigs. Only when they get word that the Honda is on par, will they jump ship.

        1. EARL JONES
          1st May 2018, 5:08

          Furthermore, does anyone even actually drink RB nowadays?

          Do we not poison ourselves enough?

      2. @johnmilk

        And since they have gathered such vast experience with a poor engine, it is logical for me the move to Honda, at least they get to be a works team.

        They’ve had experience in running a poor F1 engine, but they don’t have any experience with GP2 engines yet.

        On a more serious note… there just isn’t enough benefit to being a works team any more. I can guarantee that if Red Bull had the choice between a Mercedes customer and a Honda works team, they would select Mercedes customer every single time. There was a period at the start of the hybrid era that the works team really got the most out of the power unit and package overall, but as time has gone on, this advantage is becoming less relevant. With the regulations regarding engine hardware and software parity for customers, this “works” advantage will be very minimal in years to come.

        1. @todfod I think it still plays a big part. Maybe post 2020 it won’t be relevant, until then I expect dominance from work’s teams

          1. @johnmilk

            I don’t know if this dominance of the works teams are really because they’re works teams or because Mercedes and Ferrari refuse to supply their power units to teams that are capable of challenging them. I think if Red Bull had a Mercedes engine, they would have won a championship already.

  13. If Ricciardo leaves, if he can get a ride…? Either replace Bottas or Kimi, those are his only options. At Ferrari I think Leclerc will take Kimi’s spot if he retires. I think Gasly will go to RB and Sainz will stay at Renault and Verstappen is taking a year off to go to “How to finish a GP School”

  14. It seems like only Mercedes and Ferrari are competitors for the WDC, I personally liked the V8 era for how simple the engines were, we should go back to that.

    1. Yes, red bull has the pace but almost every time something happens: verstappen made at least a serious mistake every single race, hampering his own results, ricciardo took a 3 place penalty in australia, had a problem in bahrain and crashed with verstappen in baku, and on top of that early in the race they had battery problems which let them lose 2 sec per lap, to the point they couldn’t keep renaults behind (1 tyre difference doesn’t explain this).

      And ofc, they lack qualifying pace, no questions.

  15. The May 15 deadline is only for the FIA to make sure every team gas an engine for next year. Red Bull has already announced that they will make a decision in the summer break.
    The McLaren and Toro Rosso Renault/Honda switch proved that you can change engines after that.

    So I think Red Bull will initially stick with Renault and decide later whether or not a switch to Honda is worthwhile.

  16. I think it’s pretty ridiculous that Honda is actually doing business with a company like Redbull. Back in 2017 the heir to the Redbull Dynasty and Thailand ran over a traffic cop in Bangkok and killed him dead. He was the father of children the husband of a loving wife. And to this day that kid has refused to face charges. It’s amazing what money can buy. That being said I’m surprised to see Honda in bed with such it disgusting company

  17. Honda is now making steady progress albeit slow….and the engine seems more reliable, although still down on power by comparison…and there may be more than a few penalties for TR later in the season….so I reckon RB should stay with Renault for one more season, especially as Renault are still improving the current engine……Sainz will at some point leave to go back to RB…and possibly Grosjean may transfer to Renault as they are still keen on a French driver, and things are not working for him with his Ferrari…sorry Haas car….

  18. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    30th April 2018, 21:24

    It’s a tough call for Red Bull. Renault would probably want to keep Red Bull. Renault as a team and engine manufacturer have the highest potential of all the teams. They have a fantastic set of drivers, they have brought in Prost, their team has shown a lot of promise in the 1st 4 races.

    They also have Red Bull to use as a benchmark and as a team that can possibly give them wins and championships and a lot of publicity.

    On the other side of the table, they have McLaren with Alonso which is another powerhouse.

    Not to mention that Renault could become Nissan and that could change the whole game for Renault should they decide to compete with Honda and beat them.

    It’s a great time to be Renault:-)

    However, does Red Bull want to stay with Renault and compete with them and McLaren using the same engine? Where’s the upside in doing so?

    I think they will have to go with Honda.

    1. Not to mention that Renault could become Nissan and that could change the whole game for Renault should they decide to compete with Honda and beat them.

      An excellent point, @freelittlebirds

    2. It’s simpler than that, honda isn’t as fast as renault yet, so they should stick with renault, they have their problems, but they’re a known quantity, honda is too much of a hit and miss for now.

  19. This is really tricky for redbull. The current power unit rules are only valid for the next 2 seasons and Renault is almost closing the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari. What are they expecting from Honda that will be beter than that? Do they believe Honda can beat Mercedes and Ferrari? Or don’t they trust Renault?

    To me it looks like a no brainer to stay at Renault for 2 more years

  20. This is great. Imagine Red Bull claiming they have as good as chassis as Red Bull…

    Considering where STR are at with Honda just Imagine RBR. And they have all the data.

  21. Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer Aston Martin Honda – That’s a good one…

    1. I chuckled at that one! haha..

      However if Honda comes on board, Tag Heuer will be gone since it is just a branding excercise because RBR did not want to associate themselves to Renault (or is it otherwise?)..

      Aston Martin-Honda RedBull Racing is more apt, I believe.

  22. I think RBR might be better off sticking with Renault for now. I cannot see how the Honda engine is going to be much of an improvement over the Renault in the short term if any. RBR can continue to monitor developments at Torro Rosso in 2019/20 and then make a final decision for 2021.

    I don’t think Honda are going to tie up with anyone else in the next year or two so by waiting it out RBR have nothing to lose.

  23. Let’s not forget that Renault has already burnt a few components on Dans car. There’s a chance the same could happen on Max’s (probably more than a good chance given the bashing it’s taken) so there’s still a big question mark over Renault’s reliability.

    In reality RBR know they have to get a manufacturer status – sticking with Renault is a road to nowhere. Even if Renault comes good, it will be for the benefit of the Renault team first before RBR gets any benefit.

    Dumping Renault (assuming that Renault doesn’t dump them first and I think they will) may be their only available card in trying to keep Dan.

    The way I see it happening.

    RBR delays decision leading to Renault wanting to terminate supply to them.
    RBR agrees to termination provided they give Sainz back plus some $$$ (to allow them to “buy” Dan)
    Dan is free to leave – will actually probably go to Renault – it’s really his only option.
    Max and Sainz – who doesn’t want to see that :) it’ll make Max vs Dan look positively civilised.

  24. Renault wants to stop supplying to RBR because they see RedBull as a competitor, who if not for Renault engine, will not be able to compete with Renault factory team. Eliminating RBR from active competition, along with an improving Renault Works team is a perfect formula to move right behind Ferrari and Mercedes, and closer to their ambition of winning races for Renault. So it is Renault who stands to gain a lot and they are pushing for an exit. I do not know why no one sees it that way in the comments…

    Sainz’s position is of course a cause of concern for Renault – but they know that problem already and I guess they may have already worked out a back up plan.

    For RedBull, they can chose to be powered by Renault in the current set up provided they keep Sainz with Renault and of course pay the price for the PU at premium / without discounts. It is not at their end to bargain. Hence, Honda comes in as a viable nonnegotiable instrument and a potential partner.

    There are two ways about it: Honda works with RBR to improve the engine during the current season and become competitive in the next two or continues to power only TR, while RBR uses Honda to negotiate a better deal with Renault. Let’s see what happens in Spain.

    1. Hence, Honda comes in as a viable *negotiable instrument and a potential partner.

  25. I agree – Renault are the ones that really want the relationship to end. They’ve used RBR to gradually improve their PU but now want to focus more on their own team.

    Watch this space for their next few moves/hires as well as an announcement that they’ll no longer supply RBR soon.

  26. This is a no-brainer. Go for Honda.
    McLaren’s lack of improvement from last year to this clearly shows that Honda wasn’t really all the problem.
    I am sure Red Bull have all the data on Toro Rosso’s true potential this year (correcting for driver mistakes and chassis gap).

    The only reason they are discussing with Honda this late (and not right after Bahrain) is they probably wanted to see reliability of the Honda.

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