Honda and Red Bull logos, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Red Bull to make engine decision by Austrian Grand Prix

2018 F1 season

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Red Bull CEO Dietrich Mateschitz will make the final call on which power unit the team will use next season by the Austrian Grand Prix in July, according to team principal Christian Horner.

The team is considering a switch from Renault to Honda power for the 2019 F1 season. Both manufacturers introduced performance upgrades at the Canadian Grand Prix last weekend.

Horner said Red Bull “got a lot of information to go away and analyse from this weekend” about the upgrades but he wants to see how they perform at next week’s French Grand Prix before committing to either.

“It’ll probably take another weekend just to view it over a couple of circuits. Then I’m sure around the Austrian Grand Prix we’ll be coming to a conclusion.”

Red Bull is keeping an eye on the progress its junior team Toro Rosso is making with Honda.

“From what I hear they made a good step this weekend,” said Horner. “Renault have brought what they advertised as well. Now we have a bunch of GPS data to go away and analyse and look at the relative performance.”

“Obviously there’s an engineering decision and effectively it’ll go to Mr Mateschitz for his approval,” Horner added.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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51 comments on “Red Bull to make engine decision by Austrian Grand Prix”

  1. Considering how the McLaren Honda combo went, is this not a risky consideration? Red Bull are capable of winning at least some races with the present Renault set-up; at least part of the McLaren-Honda disaster was due to lack of engine power.

    1. I would say after this year that McLaren questioned a lot Honda and not enough themselves. It can go either way with RedBull, they can help Honda develop our they can apply too much pressure to the Japanese until they get a non working PU.
      Not sure RedBull is a safe and healthy partner to have on a long term. Do they even have such partners?

      1. You are right in saying that McLaren’s escape-goated Honda and this season proves that their problems were beyond just the engine. However, it is undeniable that Honda engine was both underperforming AND ridiculously unreliable.

        Despite the progress this year I still think Honda is too risky a choice for a top team like Red Bull.

  2. Vettel fan 17 (@)
    12th June 2018, 13:12

    I think they will move to Honda, even thought I think it will be a mistake

    1. I have a got feel moving to honda will be the right move, cuz honda is only improving & i feel red bull will be the 3rd best team next year even with honda @vettelfan17

      But imagine if the Red Bull-Honda is the class of the field, imagine the honda being the best engine it would drive alonso insane & sum pretty much sum up his career

      1. But imagine if the Red Bull-Honda is the class of the field, imagine the honda being the best engine it would drive alonso insane & sum pretty much sum up his career

        You said it. Alonso’s career started well with winning 2 WDCs with Renault against stiff opposition. It then started to unravel – he left Ferrari and they gradually became more competitive and are now giving Merc a run for their money. He returned to McLaren probably based on that combo’s results from 1988 and 1989 and we all know what happened next. If Honda are successful with RBR, Alonso will probably go off the deep end.

        1. I always said that Alonso is a very fast driver, he knows how to get the most out of what he has. But he is no development driver, but the input he give is not really helpful in actually improving the car.

      2. But imagine if the Red Bull-Honda is the class of the field, imagine the honda being the best engine

        All we need will now be Marlboro sponsorship.

    2. it is very easy to speculate. We have the performances of McRenault, McHonda and RBRrenault. And i do not think it is wise to comment on how the partnership will fair at the moment.
      One can only wait and watch.

  3. Abiteboul already said Austria is too long of a wait…

    “I guess they have all the information that they need now. I don’t see why they are going to further delay the decision,” he told “Past a certain point, the offer we made, and that they requested, will not stand,” the Frenchman added. “It was Montreal that they wanted to wait for our new spec, Honda’s new spec. We will not be able to wait for the sort of timing that they’ve mentioned this weekend.”

    Taken from Reuters… Racefans a touch behind the times? Renault posturing? Will their actions match their words? Red Bull could be stuck with Honda regardless if they keep this up.

    1. @skipgamer – yeah, I too read an article about Abiteboul’s response to RBR’s decision. I wonder what offer he’s referring to? A cost aspect? Something around Sainz? Something else totally out of left-field?

      Finally, something more interesting than the driver silly season – the PU silly season!

  4. as a McLaren fan, I’m watching what’s happening now and crying inside a little. Should Red Bull go the same way? Well first off, it isn’t exactly the same, as Honda now have several years under their belt, and the step forward and towards reliably-delivered power had to come at some point. Should McLaren have stuck with them this year? I think so, but I also completely understand the fall from grace aspect, and the need to move forward and not take any more risks with this. Honda should have sorted themselves out in the three years they had (plus one extra while Merc/Ren/Fer all had an engine out there for Honda to copy).

    In any case, whatever decision Red Bull take, it will not likely lose them as much as it did McLaren, on top of which, they have a buffer “test team” in the form of Toro Rosso, which McLaren did not have. McLaren need to get their heads down, and Red Bull need to find some way of getting the best engine, and for the same reasons McLaren went on about, a factory partnership with Honda is much more likely to bring the win than a customer engine from one of the other three…

    It’s up to Honda to make this work, real shame it didn’t with McLaren…

    1. IMO it was pure management mistake from McLaren, they had opportunity to buy Caterham or Manor and run as test team for something about 20 million per year instead they choose just to pour money into the team.

    2. I actually disagree. Moving to Renault has definitively shown how far McLaren are behind regardless of PU. Long term they probably needed to know that in order to at least try and get their own house in order before blaming a so-called GP2 engine. It might seem in hindsight that sticking with Honda makes sense, but in their situation at the time it really didn’t.

      1. Moving to Renault has definitively shown how far McLaren are behind regardless of PU. Long term they probably needed to know that in order to at least try and get their own house in order before blaming a so-called GP2 engine.

        @john-h – good point, and a nicely positive take on what is a bad situation for McLaren. If McLaren can make good of this, then more power to them.

  5. The Renault team were only 0.1 seconds faster than Toro Rosso in race fastest laps, the decision will be how much of an improvement Red Bull would get compared to Toro Rosso with the chassis and aero. It’s entirely possible if Red Bull had Gasly’s engine at Canada, they could have been on Pole Position.

    1. This is what I’m worried about. I think choosing Honda is clearly the better option but how much that gap happened because of Toro Rosso great chassis. Would RedBull want to risk losing to their junior team?

  6. I think it’s a no brainer to go Honda. It’ll be great for both brands too and open up a lot of opportunity outside of F1.

    Talk among the paddock this weekend was the latest Honda PU, while not as reliable as the Renault, isn’t too may ponies off but is more driveable.

    Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer Honda will be a good combo :)

  7. Considering the potential implications of this decision, being able to analyze in a very detailed manner the performances of both engines is a huge bonus. They are playing their cards in a very clever way. And they only had to surrender Sainz for all this!

    I think they’ll go with the Honda engines. It’s risky but it might pay off… the question is when. They can’t afford to wait too long or they’ll waste the talent they have onboard their cars.

  8. I think its going to be Honda and trust me it is not even a risky decision. Mclaren’s and Toro Rosso’s 2018 performance has clearly pointed out that while reliability with Honda is still a question mark, the power of Honda was clearly masked by an average chassis and a team that was going out of its way to prove that the chassis wasn’t the problem but the engine was.

    From Canada, they already know which engine has more raw horsepower. The question mark is now reliability. The reason Red Bull want until Austrian GP is because they want to see how much engine power is degrading relative to mileage and get an estimate of reliability.

    The reason Renault want them to hurry up is simple. Renault wants to lock Red Bull down to a contract quickly as that is good money for Renault. Don’t forget that Red Bull pay a lot more than the going rate since the Tag Heuer branding of 2016 (A compensation for the constant whining done by Horner in 2015).

    1. Very nice points, sumedh.

    2. Mclaren’s and Toro Rosso’s 2018 performance has clearly pointed out that while reliability with Honda is still a question mark, the power of Honda was clearly masked by an average chassis and a team that was going out of its way to prove that the chassis wasn’t the problem but the engine was.

      I’m not convinced by that.
      The comparison between the standings after 7 races between 2017 and 2018 shows that McLaren have:
      – Improved their average qualifying result by 1.7 places (14.07 to 12.35; going from 6 eliminations in Q1 to just one)
      – Improved their average finishing position by almost 4.5 places (13.83 to 9.36), scoring 40 points and 8 points finishes more than in 2017 (when they scored 0).
      Coversely, Toro Rosso have:
      – Worsened their average qualifying result by 2.9 places (11.5 to 14.38; going from 2 eliminations in Q1 to 7 [or 8, if you count the Spanish GP, where Hartley had wrecked the car in FP3])
      – Worsened their average finishing position by almost 3.8 places (9.4 to 13.18), scoring 10 points and 4 points finishes less than in 2017 (from 29 to 19, and from 7 to 3).

      So, in fact, they’ve pretty much swapped places by swapping engines, and now Toro Rosso are clearly being held back by an underperforming Honda PU.

      Yes, McLaren’s chassis clearly isn’t the best out there, but it does not follow that, consequently, the opposite of every statement they’ve made must be true. McLaren’s underwhelming chassis notwithstanding, the Honda PU is still the worst performer on the grid.

      1. Thank you, @nase, great analysis :)

    3. The problem with the Honda power unit has ALWAYS been reliability, and still is. It doesn’t matter how much power you have unless you can finish the race.

      1. johntodiffer
        14th June 2018, 2:08

        Renault’s packages self destructed week about last year – reliability isn’t their strong suit either.
        If they really do have a strong PU, they’ll most likely take another funding step for the factory team … possibly even procure another great driver and try actually competing with Redbull for the first time.

  9. If Red Bull announce a switch to Honda at the halfway point of the calendar year, I wonder how good will their Renault PUs be the rest of the year. Yes, its time for another edition of “Tinfoil Times”!

    What’s to prevent Renault from giving the worst of the engines (but ones that still pass their quality test) to Red Bull some races down the line? I remember in 2017 Toro Rosso having a spate of engine failures in the second set of flyaway races, which coincidentally coincided with the announcement of the switch to Honda power.

    Red Bull’s relationship with Renault has been quite toxic since 2014, and I can’t see a split between them going down much better, either.

    1. Though Renault would still receive sizeable financial and marketing reward from Red Bull success this season.

  10. Keith – how about one of your opinion pieces on what Red Bull should do (you know, the ‘for’, ‘against’, ‘what I think’ format, with a vote)?

    1. @keithcollantine i second that, and i am sure it’s coming ;)

  11. Why is Red Bull being allowed extra time by the FIA to decide?

    1. If you have to ask…it’s because….it’s RBR.

  12. Definitely Renault, Redbull finally back challenging at the front after 4 years in the wilderness – can’t see them wanting to step back right now… Let Torro Rosso keep doing the development for another year…

  13. While RBR still has the option, ie. the Renault engine available to them, I’d stick with it for another year. Why? Consistency and time. They’re doing quite well with the Renault Pu and could do even better next year, and could bide their time for another year while Honda continues to advance, STR being ideal insider witnesses to their progress.

    At the same time if I’m Renault, unless their own works team is going to make a leap in performance, why not have RBR do another fairly successful year with their Pu which will continue to give Renault feedback as well for when they do want to put their full effort into their own team?

    1. I’d stick with it for another year. Why? Consistency and time.

      @robbie – If we bring the 2021 engine regs into the picture, would that change your mind? If they continue with Renault for 2019 or even 2020, they will increasingly be treated as a “customer” while Renault benefits from them (as a development baseline, and car/performance data), and then switching to Honda in 2021 with an engine development reset might not help.

      Instead, if they switch to Honda for 2019 and take the pain, they can not only aim for a better year in 2020, but they will also have a longer working relationship when the 2021 regs roll around.

      1. @phylyp I think that’s a fair option you’ve spelled out too. Really hard to know what RBR know and think about what Honda’s status and potential timeline for improvement is. I was just thinking could another year of status quo hurt, but you’ve nailed a good point that they could get a head start for 2021.

        Was just thinking that for next year at least, and with RBR being Renault’s best team, Renault would have perhaps an even more potent RBR next year, Renault themselves would have another year to make themselves the best Renault powered team for when RBR does leave, as it really should be, and Honda gets another year to develop for when RBR becomes their works team. Kind of repeating myself I know. But that’s me only seeing it from here and obviously if RBR moves to Honda for next year that means they have way more reason for confidence in them than I have right now, and no question your point is valid in them having an extra year before the 2021 regs.

        1. @robbie – I’m sure the benefits of both approaches are bedevilling the Red Bull decision makers in committing to a way forward!

      2. @phylyp, the thing is, do they necessarily want a longer term relationship with Honda? There have been those suggesting that a deal between Red Bull and Honda is effectively already done, but that Red Bull only wants a two year deal because they want to keep their options open for 2021.

  14. Archit (@architjain07)
    12th June 2018, 16:23

    Honestly I feel Honda PU was never that bad just not reliable! McLaren’s own deficiencies put them at the back of the field and they laid the entire blame on Honda PU.

    Look at how both Renault and RBR are outpacing Mclaren every race now! Their chassis seems to be behind Toro Rosso/Sauber based on recent races. Now that Honda has got the reliability part correct, I am sure they can bring steady upgrades!

    Worst case scenario for RBR: End up 3rd (the same resut as in last 3 years).
    Best case scenario: give Merc and Ferrari a run for their money!

    This is just my opinion! And I strongly feel that it will be RBR-Honda starting next season!

    1. “Just not reliable” = useless.

  15. The amusing thing is, Renault as a PU supplier is currently enjoying the most success – the works team and both customers are all in the top 5, with no other customers ahead. On the other hand, the Mercedes and Ferrari customers are the ones lagging behind in the WCC. Renault must be grateful for such well-funded customer teams!

  16. They should go for Honda. Yes, it’d bring in some risks, but at the same time, the benefits of being the ‘works’ team of a PU supplier as well.

    1. @jerejj

      What is that benefit exactly? Sofar Red Bull are properly crushing half of the works teams and doing just fine against the other half.

      The last couple of years it has been mainly McLaren and Alonso whining about needing a worksteam to win and their results kinda speaks on its own.

      1. @rethla Yes, but if they were the ‘works’ team of their PU supplier, then it’d be even easier to beat the ‘other half’ of the current PU-works teams, which are, of course, Mercedes and Ferrari. Renault could very well be competitive enough next season to fight with them as well as beat RBR, so that’s why I think they should take the gamble and go for Honda. In the long-term, it’s easier to fight for the Championships by being the ‘works’ team of a manufacturer rather than a 100% customer team as they’re now.

  17. Red Bull is playing this engine choice issue to the max. The longer they wait the better for them. I think Renault really wants them to go away. By Red Bull holding out as long as possible they may get concessions from both Honda and Renault (Saenz). I am pretty sure they already decided to go with Honda, since it works pretty well in the TR

  18. The Dolphins
    12th June 2018, 18:27

    I’m also predicting a Red Bull-Honda partnership for next season, and like others have suggested it seems like it’s a done deal but for the signatures. There are many advantages to the partnership, for both sides. For Honda, having 2 teams (4 cars) run your engines provides double the data and helps the cost of development/engine. Mario Illen has been seen with the Red Bull team in the past (even before the TR-Honda partnership) so it seems like both RB and Honda have this common relationship already. Honda has been providing steady improvements with the ICE and with the 2021 engine formula change to remove the MGU-H entirely then Honda can prioritize the ICE development and in the meantime MGU-H reliability more-so than performance. Red Bull do want continuity but I think they will get that in the form of Ricciardo staying for 1 more season (looking more likely) or with Sainz moving to RB and bringing his Honda engine drivability experience with him.

    1. @The Dolphins ”Sainz moving to RB and bringing his Honda engine drivability experience with him.”
      – Yeah, except that Sainz hasn’t actually driven with the Honda PU, though. So far, he’s only driven Renault-powered cars as well as with Ferrari power for one season (2016).

  19. Surely it’s just for 2 years anyway if Porsche is set to come in and be Red Bull partner for 2021 onwards, and if Renault and Honda are about even now it would explain Red Bull not caring to make a decision even if Renault has long been threatening to close the door.

    Last race in Canada, Ricciardo explained his difficulty was due to the driveability (software) of the new Renault engine, and a problem like this would surely be more easily sorted with a dedicated engine supplier.

  20. AMuS are reporting it’ll be announced prior to their home GP in Austria.

    Red Bull Honda.

    1. JC: But you said earlier it was: Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer Honda

      1. So the RAT becomes the RATH?

        As an ardent RBR fan I hope whatever they decide keeps the current team dynamic.
        The driver combo is great and if DR leaves I think they’ll lose it, no matter who gets dropped in.

        If they go with a Honda donk maybe they can revert to a simpler livery and put the big red disc on the flank.
        No MV kamikaze jokes though, that would be in poor taste (he drove a very VB style of race so kudos to the kid).

  21. I’d love to see Renault just pull the plug on Red Bull. It seems to me that they have already cast their lot with Honda by putting their engines in the STR “test” team, anyway.

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