Toro Rosso, Paul Ricard, 2018

Red Bull will give Honda no limits on F1 engine design

2018 F1 season

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Red Bull will not impose restrictions on Honda’s Formula 1 power unit design as McLaren did, according to team principal Christian Horner.

McLaren pursued a design philosophy it called ‘size zero’ when it began using Honda power in 2015. The pair split after three unsuccessful seasons, but Red Bull has opted to use Honda power from next year.

Horner told Sky the decision to switch from Renault to Honda – the reverse of McLaren’s off-season change in engine supplier – was “pretty clear-cut.”

“Renault are now in a situation where they have their own team, they have different priorities,” he said.

“And I think we can see the progress Honda’s making. There’s been some changes that have happened there in the last nine months or so. The progress they’re making is obvious. For us it’s absolutely the right partner going forward.

“Our mantra’s going to be ‘go and build the best engine you can, we’re not going to give you any limitations in terms of packaging, we’ll make it fit’,” Horner explained. “They’ve got some talented people that have been recruited, they’ve got some specialists that they’re working with.”

Despite McLaren’s unsuccessful partnership with Honda, Horner believes there is “very little risk” in working with them. “We’re more interested in what is the opportunity and the potential reward.

“Obviously McLaren’s experience was McLaren’s experience. You can see it hasn’t got a whole world better since they’ve changed engine partner. For us, our decision was based on what’s in front of us here and now and looking forward.”

“This was very much driven by engineering, in terms of what is the best way for us to be competitive and bridge that gap to Mercedes and Ferrari. We really, genuinely feel this is the best way,” he added.

Red Bull has a title sponsorship deal with Aston Martin, which has said it is considering an F1 engine programme of its own in the future.

“Obviously we’ve consulted Aston all the way through this,” said Horner. “They’re more than happy with the change.

“They don’t make engines. Andy Palmer, the CEO, has been hugely supportive. I think they see the opportunities [that] we do to make progress and get closer to the cars ahead.”

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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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  • 10 comments on “Red Bull will give Honda no limits on F1 engine design”

    1. This is gonna be good. We already knows where Renault, Red Bull and Mclaren stand but will Honda finally start do deliver in this hybrid era?

      No matter what im still gonna be sad that Sauber aint along for the ride.

    2. I have no real issue with what Horner is saying, however, I will be giving RBR/Honda the same patience in 2019, their first year with Honda, as I am having for Mac with Renault right now in their first year.

      While it appears like Mac is little better off with Renault, which people these days popularly like to then put down to the Mac chassis not actually being that good after all, I’m not so sure. Let’s in fairness compare Mac’s first year with Honda to their first year with Renault, and we see FA alone has already garnered more points this season than both drivers managed throughout the whole of 2015. Let’s wind the clock up to 2017, and the same can be said.

      So I would think that Mac has indeed already greatly improved now that they no longer have Honda pu’s. Is that all about Mac forcing tight packaging on Honda year after year? I don’t buy that. Year one? Ok sure. But as if they would continue to be so insistent that they would rather have a coke bottle appearance than an actual functioning and progressing and advancing car.

      Sure Mac has not done yet what they had hoped they would by now, but, F1 is hard we know that, and the Renault has not been good enough for RBR, so Mac shouldn’t be expected to perform miracles with the third best Pu, in only one third of their first season of the marriage.

      I’m so glad on Max’s behalf that Mac did the grunt work and helped Honda bide their time til now when they seem to finally be getting something together after too many years…but then…Renault still lags after even more years such that RBR is gone. RBR is more competitive this year but still sitting third and I don’t see them performing miracles, just sporadic shining moments, in the years of marriage with Renault in the current hybrid format. Mac deserves more patience than criticism. Honda still has absolutely everything to prove.

      1. Think you’re not being fair to honda considering 2015 and 2017, they were terrible years for them and don’t forget honda has been out of f1 for a long time, renault instead when mclaren switched to them were making decent engines for like 15 years, better or worse depending on seasons, so they are less than a gamble and more of a known quantity.

        You should compare 2016, the best mclaren honda year in recent times, if I recall they were 6th in the constructor’s championship and this year they have the chance to fight for 4th or at worst should be able to grab a 5th place, if vandoorne starts doing something as well, so there seems to be a little improvement.

    3. It does seem a remarkably common sense approach from Red Bull. Go and make the best engine you can. As opposed to McLaren’s approach which was not only to come in at year 1 and build the most complicated power unit F1 has ever seen and do it while trying to be competitive and reliable off the bat, but also ‘do it with one hand tied behind your back’. In hindsight they were always destined to fail by making the situation as difficult as they possibly could, and Honda’s engine building reputation took a disproportionate hit in the process. I’m looking forward to this partnership.

      1. It’s a lot of window dressing. Like redbull will let Honda make an engine that is aerodynamically like a bus… Honda failed hard. McLaren is no longer the greatness they were. Redbull and Honda on a new chapter can work, sure.

    4. Rui (@colinmcrui)
      22nd June 2018, 15:15

      You’ve got to appreciate a good team principal, and RedBull has two of them. It’s like I read their minds three months ago :)

      1. Rui (@colinmcrui)
        22nd June 2018, 15:21

        BTW, since the future is not written yet, and only 2019 will tell, @sonicslv left a nice remark on the cultural part of this story..

    5. I don´t blame RBR for taking this option, what they have been doing is not working so why not try something different but this is a gamble and it is one that will probably not pay off. Honda have had long enough to make a competitive engine ad they still have not got there.

      We keep on saying, just give them another year, it will come good but the truth is that they have had 4 years and it is still the worst engine, by a long shot.

      The next major rule change needs to shake up the engines again or we will see things continue down this road, great teams having to go with the worst engines because they cannot find a better way to compete with Mercedes and Ferrari.

      It seems likely that there will be an engine shake up and where does that leave Honda? 5 or 6 years developing their terrible engine for nothing but a ruined reputation.

      We need a few more independent suppliers, some way to encourage and incentivise that and it appears that that will mean dropping the energy recovery systems which are too expensive to develop.

      1. Many years ago a friend went to a meeting regarding entering a New Zealand rugby league team into the top Australian rugby league series. When I asked him what they said he said they expected it would take them at least 7 years to get to the level of performance required to compete in the finals, and, as I understand it, it did indeed take 7 years before they made their first appearance in the Finals and 8 to win the series. I don’t know their reasoning behind why it took so long, but my suspicion is there’s thousands of little differences between first and last, each difference in itself not seeming to be important, but collectively they’re all important. The same sort of thinking is required by an engine manufacturer if they want to supply engines to F1 teams: there are thousands of slight differences between their power unit and those that have powered cars to the podium. McLaren were aware of this, and so are RBR and Toro Rosso.
        With each engine upgrade some of those slight deficiencies have been ironed out, so now the Honda engine is far more competitive against the improved Mercedes, Ferrari, and Renault engines than it was three years ago.

    6. Maybe McLaren’s plans around the size zero and the design limitations they imposed to Honda were a good idea on paper but it didn’t work out as intended. And we don’t know if Honda was presented with the plan and said: “yes, we can do it”. For all we know, they didn’t say “this is impossible”.

      But isn’t it all about timing sometimes? Red Bull is doing what McLaren wanted to do: having a works engine is the best way to succeed. But Honda has a base now, even if it’s a bit underpowered and not very reliable, whereas McLaren had nothing and wanted too much. Red Bull is basically benefiting from McLaren’s (and Honda’s) fruitless efforts.

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